Defenseman Ryan Suter reported to Xcel Energy Center on Monday when the Wild reconvened for its first practice of the playoffs.
But instead of getting on the ice with his teammates to prepare for a first-round meeting with the Jets like he was primed to do just a few weeks ago, Suter wished them good luck during a 30-minute visit and then went home.
“I’ll be cheering for them and supporting them every way I can,” he said.
Suter will be a bystander for the rest of the Wild’s season, as he recovers from surgery that fixed his right ankle after it was severely damaged March 31.
It was the first injury that sidelined the 33-year-old since he joined the Wild in 2012. It has pushed him out of the lineup at the most important and enjoyable segment of the season, but hasn’t soured Suter’s optimism.
“I think I’ll be better than ever,” he said. “That’s the mind-set I’m going to have. This was probably one of my best years playing, and I think that there’s no reason next year can’t be better.”
Only a game after Suter set his personal best and the franchise record for assists in a season for a defenseman with 45 and tied his career high in points (51), his right foot smashed into the boards after he was hit by Stars winger Remi Elie during the second period in Dallas.
“The video doesn’t really do it justice, in my opinion,” he said. “It looks like a nothing play. To break two major bones in your ankle just kind of like that doesn’t make much sense. I felt it right when I was back there. I could feel the hit. The contact with the boards was pretty intense, and it kind of shocked me with how hard my foot hit the boards.”
He ended up breaking his talus and the outside of his right fibula and if Suter starred in another sport like football, soccer or basketball, the collision would have probably ended his career.
“They didn’t say hockey,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can and get into shape and get my foot healed so I can continue to play.”
After undergoing surgery Thursday in Green Bay, Suter can’t have weight bearing on his ankle for two months, possibly three. He’s getting around on crutches, but the father of three is mostly staying idle as his family awaits the arrival of a fourth child.
“She’s three weeks away from having a baby and babysitting me,” Suter said of his wife, Becky. “So I feel pretty bad for her.”
But Suter hasn’t felt bad for himself.
He expects to resume skating like he typically would at the end of July and anticipates showing up for training camp like he usually would.
Suter plans to try to get back to Xcel Energy Center when the series shifts to St. Paul. Although he is disappointed by the injury and wishes he could be on the ice for his team, he hasn’t sensed anger or frustration — especially after the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan last week that killed 15 and injured 14 others.
“I have to find a way to get back to 100 percent and make sure that I’m ready to go next season and be able to help the team,” said Suter, who sent out a message on Twitter on Monday recognizing one of the deceased players who tried to play like him. “I think with all the stuff going on in the world, that poor hockey team, just with everything happening, I don’t feel sorry for me one bit. It can always be worse.”