Mike Rupp was unlikely to play much — if at all — in the playoffs, but the Wild forward might now be forced to miss the last regular-season game and opening of the playoffs.
In his first game since Feb. 1 and fifth since Dec. 31, the veteran left wing was assessed a match penalty for “attempt to injure” with what appeared to be a left shoulder to the chin of St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie in the second period Thursday night.
That calls for an automatic suspension, pending review by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
“Obviously Oshie’s out,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Like everybody else this time of year, he’s day-to-day, but certainly a tough hit to take right now.”
Oshie left the game looking dazed and bloodied. Rupp was unavailable for comment.
With the Blues emotional, Wild coach Mike Yeo prudently sat big guns Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville for most the third period. Suter, the NHL’s ice-time leader, logged only 11 minutes, 19 seconds. “They’re obviously looking to target those guys,” Yeo said.
Yeo played Rupp and fellow veteran Dany Heatley to give each perhaps their final opportunity to play this regular season. Heatley and Rupp, both in the last year of their contracts, replaced Stephane Veilleux and Justin Fontaine.
Rupp, a tough customer, entered with one fight and one assist in 13 games this season. He admitted beforehand to “a lot of pent-up energy” but said, “I’m not going to go look for anything.”
“I just want to play,” Rupp said before the game. “I think the team’s been playing awesome. We’ve got a great group of guys in here and a nice blend the last few games and really hit stride. I don’t want to shake that up. I just want to come in and do my job.”
Hitchcock began the second period by starting his fourth line. Yeo responded by putting his out. But despite Ryan Reaves and Rupp jawing before the opening draw, there were no fireworks until Rupp’s hit on Oshie 10½ minutes later.
“We didn’t like the hit,” Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. “He’s such an important part to our team.”
Defenseman Christian Folin, signed out of UMass-Lowell on March 31, assisted one of Kyle Brodziak’s two goals and was plus-3 in his NHL debut alongside Marco Scandella.
“I just raised my arms and smiled all the way down,” said Folin, who logged 19:26 of ice time as Jared Spurgeon got the night off.
Yeo was “pretty pleased,” saying, “It’s one thing to play your first NHL game in October or December, but to play against the St. Louis Blues at the playoff time of year, it’s impressive. So he showed me something tonight. This kid’s got a bright future.”