DETROIT – The Wild’s depth on defense is thinning.
Defenseman Clayton Stoner is week-to-week because of what General Manager Chuck Fletcher said is a sprained knee. Defenseman Keith Ballard missed his fourth consecutive game because of a groin injury, so former Nashville Predators defenseman Jon Blum was recalled from Iowa of the AHL to play against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.
It was Blum’s fifth game with the Wild.
“We’re lucky we’ve got a guy like Blummer that can come up,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I thought he played very well for us [previously]. Hopefully Bally’s back soon, but in the short term at the very least, we know we can count on Blummer.”
Yeo said Ballard hadn’t made progress in the past few days. If the Wild sustains another injury on defense, it’ll have to look again toward Iowa. Steve Kampfer was injured Saturday while blocking a shot, but it’s not thought to be serious. Other defensemen in Iowa include Kyle Medvec and Tyler Cuma.
It’s believed Stoner initially was hurt in New Jersey last week when checked by Adam Henrique.
“He was battling hard for us there, so it’s a shame,” Yeo said.
Fletcher has asked Wild director of hockey administration Shep Harder to inquire with the NHL about potential emergency conditions in case the Wild needs Matt Dumba from Portland of the Western Hockey League. There are usually tight junior call-up restrictions, and it’s always temporary if the junior team is still alive. The Winterhawks are matched up with Vancouver in the WHL playoffs and are one of the best Canadian Hockey League teams. Dumba scored eight goals and 24 points and was plus-31 in 26 games for Portland.
Penalty kill is killing ’em
The key to fixing the Wild’s malfunctioning penalty kill is winning draws and clearing pucks, players say. In Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Detroit, the Wild gave up two power-play goals on two chances. Sunday, in a 4-3 overtime victory, the Wild killed one of two.
“Faceoffs and clears,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “[Clears are] the biggest thing. We’ve have chances to get pucks down and we’re not. That’s really hurt us. It’s costing us games.”
The Wild’s penalty kill ranks 26th in the NHL at a 79.7 percent success rate. It has allowed eight goals on 23 chances in the past 10 games. In two of those games, the Wild didn’t take a penalty, so the penalty kill didn’t even see the ice.
“Sometimes during the year, you go through ups and downs,” Suter said. “But we’re going through all downs it seems this year. The good thing is there’s still time to get it right before we get to the playoffs.”
Zach Parise said: “When our PK is good, we’re aggressive at the right times. When a guy’s back is turned or the puck’s bobbling, when they’re scrambling, you’re supposed to go with all four guys. But when our PK’s not good, you can tell we let them off the hook way too easily.”
Trying to help Heatley
Dany Heatley has a history of scoring goals, but he has three shots in his past nine games. Part of that is because of decreased ice time and a third- and fourth-line role.
“Last couple of games, we’ve tried to surround him with some guys offensively that hopefully can get him the puck,” Yeo said. “He’s a guy that, if in the lineup, we need him creating offense. That’s his role, that’s an identity that he has.
“But at the same time, when things aren’t going as well offensively as you would like, can you up the other parts of your game? Can you be better defensively, can you be more effective on the forecheck, can you bring more momentum?”