There have been times this season when a bad game or the stress of mounting losses caused the grief Clayton Stoner has felt for months to suddenly return.
"Sometimes it just hits you, you get emotional and you don't really give a damn about anything, really," the Wild defenseman said Monday.
But as hard as it has been, Stoner has kept pushing forward despite the still-open wounds of losing his older brother, Luke, last May to a logging accident in British Columbia.
"There's probably not a day goes by that I don't think about him," said Stoner, 27. "The first few months were the toughest. I had a tough time dealing with it. Probably didn't talk about it enough. I held everything in like a lot of guys do. With time, I've been able talk about it a little better.
"I'll never forget him and think about him all the time. I don't know if it's made me stronger by any means, but if anything, I hope I became a better person."
In a way, overcoming such pain epitomizes Stoner's career. It took 4 1/2 years of trudging through the minors for Stoner to finally make the big show in 2009. He's been struck by a plethora of injuries throughout his pro career.
It is why on Monday the Minnesota chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association selected Stoner as the Wild's nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"There were plenty times where I was questioning if there would ever be a chance and what I would do down the road after 4 1/2 years down there," said Stoner, who can become a free agent July 1. "I just stuck with it because I enjoy the game and have a lot of fun playing. With the new management here, I was lucky enough to get a chance.
"It hasn't been pretty at times, but hopefully I can stay a little healthier over the next couple years."
If defenseman Jonas Brodin, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, doesn't make the Wild out of camp next season, the team might consider placing him in Houston of the AHL.
Originally, General Manager Chuck Fletcher had said he wouldn't put a 19-year-old European in the AHL and that he would be better served returning to Sweden if he wasn't ready to play in the NHL.
"There's a lot of logic to that, but I'm not sure that opinion is universally held within our organization," Fletcher said earlier this month. "There are people that feel he'd be better served being in North America all year. We'll see how much stronger he gets this summer and what level he's at when he comes to development camp [in July] and training camp."
Brodin, an all-world skater, was a stud for Sweden's gold medal team at the world junior championships and seemed to thrive on the NHL-sized rink despite heavier forecheck pressure.
• Goalie Niklas Backstrom, out since March 1 because of a groin injury, backed up Josh Harding, who made his first start since March 8. Matt Hackett was reassigned to Houston.
Center Mikko Koivu (shoulder) missed his 15th consecutive game but is "very close" to playing, coach Mike Yeo said.
• Vancouver's Ryan Kesler could face supplemental discipline for a low-bridge, clipping check aimed at Cal Clutterbuck's knees Monday.
"I was surprised. I mean, normally you just go shoulder to shoulder, and that's that," Clutterbuck said.