Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Jared Spurgeon to miss few weeks; Josh Harding still out

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 4, 2014 - 12:40 PM

The Wild has sustained a significant loss in its lineup for at least the next fews weeks as defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has played alongside Ryan Suter the past two games and was plus-3 in 27 minutes against Buffalo on Thursday, will be sidelined with a lower-body injury. He has been placed on injured reserve.

Spurgeon, who has been banged up lately as it is, blocked a shot last game. He didn't miss a shift, but it sounds like it stems from that.

Jonas Brodin will move back to the right side with Suter and Nate Prosser will move to the second pair with Marco Scandella.

"Pross, I liked his game [the past few]," coach Mike Yeo said. "He's shown in the past that he can provide the kind of stability and defensive game that we need to go up against top lines. It’s a great opportunity for him."

Clayton Stoner will skate tonight with Keith Ballard, who was a healthy scratch last game.

"Bally's a very capable veteran guy," Yeo said.

He has struggled bigtime though. He's a minus-12 the past 17 games, and hasn't had a plus game during those 17. I talked to him today about his game and that will be a big part of my game notebook in Sunday's paper.

The Wild is down to six defensemen now with Jon Blum next on the depth chart. We'll see if the Wild now brings Matt Dumba back to Minnesota to add depth after world juniors (my gut has always been that he was going to be assigned to Portland of the WHL, which traded for his junior rights, after world juniors; now I'm not too sure, at least initially). The team may have to in order to step some sort of depth tide unless GM Chuck Fletcher can find a way to add a defenseman. I can't imagine the Wild's too comfortable with its depth on the blue line right now, especially until Ballard shows he can bring some stability to the lineup.

In other news, Justin Fontaine will miss tonight's game after inadvertantly colliding with Ballard in practice Friday. Yeo says he is sore and will see the doctors tonight at the arena. Yeo hopes it's not serious. In the meantime, Brett Bulmer has recalled and will slide into Fontaine's spot on the third line with Matt Cooke and Charlie Coyle.

In other potentially significant news, Josh Harding will miss his second game and third day in a row because he's not "feeling well." That's the only detail or update Yeo has provided, but this is obviously a concern.

"We'll just keep going day-to-day here. Not much of an update," Yeo said.

Yeo did talk today like Darcy Kuemper is here to stay for a bit and Niklas Backstrom must step up like he did against Buffalo.

"Kemps is a young kid and at some point if he is here and he does gets in, he’s going to have to perform," Yeo said. "We have seen what he’s capable of doing in the past, but having said that, I’m very comfortable with Backy and with his game right now. Talking to him the other day, he’s been waiting for an opportunity, and here it is."

That sounds to me like Yeo isn't expecting Harding back for a bit. We know he missed 10 days recently because he had his treatment altered for multiple sclerosis. If you remember last season, Harding missed two months starting with a scratched start in Vancouver because he was not reacting well to a new treatment protocol.

Hopefully this is a simple illness right now, but obviously it's a concern.

Again, if Harding will be out, the Wild needs Backstrom to step out or Fletcher's first priority before scoring and defense may be goaltending. Backstrom, by the way, has finally received goal support the past two games. He has gotten eight goals of support the past two games after TEN the previous TEN games, which is pretty insane.

Braden Holtby will start for the first time since Dec. 21. Martin Erat down to the fourth line with Brooks Laich back at third-line center.

Seven of the Wild's 18 skaters tonight will be 23-and-younger. One 23-year-old and six 21-year-olds or younger.

Yeo said they have to look at it as an opportunity and rise to the challenge.

The Wild had an optional skate today. Funny moment, but at one point when the Wild was almost 30 minutes into that optional, Yeo, who wasn't on the ice, looked in the locker room and saw how many of the Wild players were still out there.

Yeo walked out of the locker room and to the bench. Next thing you know, every player filed off in a line.

It was one of those, "Save it for the game," moments. But that's what happens when you have so many kids in a lineup. They were all just out there skating and skating and shooting and shooting, almost forgetting they have to play tonight against the Washington Capitals.

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