CHICAGO – When Jared Spurgeon got a minor penalty for elbowing Chicago’s Marcus Kruger in Game 4 on Friday night, it was a shock to hear Spurgeon’s name accompany such an aggressive penalty.
Heck, it’s a shock any time the Wild’s 24-year-old defenseman takes any penalty.
Spurgeon’s 28 career penalty minutes in 229 regular-season games are the second fewest among active NHLers who have played 200 games.
“I didn’t even think I hit him,” Spurgeon said of Kruger. “I tried to hit him and he kind of moved out of the way and I didn’t feel anything. I thought it was more leg on leg.”
Spurgeon, who had a career-high 26 points and was tied for a team-best plus-15 in 67 games this season, was asked how he takes such few penalties for a player who averages more than 22 minutes a game.
“I just try to be in position and not let guys get behind you,” he said. “It’s also skating and moving your feet rather than using your stick.”
Spurgeon uses a bigger-than-normal stick for a 5-9 player so he can reach for pucks. His stick length comes just under his nose, and that’s cut down a couple of inches from when he first arrived in the NHL four years ago.
By trimming it, Spurgeon feels as if he can stickhandle better. He also has three goals this postseason, including a late tying goal in Game 7 of the first round against Colorado to force overtime.
Scandella impresses Yeo
Coach Mike Yeo has been thrilled with defenseman Marco Scandella, also 24, who spent his first full season with the Wild this season. After playing 63 games for the Wild in 2011-12, Scandella played only six in the regular season last year, plus an additional five in the playoffs.
“All year, he’s looked like a different player,” Yeo said of Scandella, who had 17 points and was plus-10 while averaging 18:49 a game over 76 games. “We’ve always known that potential was there for him. But he seemed to let things influence his play, whether it was his mood or whatever. If he had a bad shift, a bad play could turn into a bad period and a bad period always turned into a bad game for him.
“Right now, he plays with a great deal of confidence. The way he executes coming out of our defensive zone, the way he moves his feet, the way he defends, his physical presence. He’s been very even-keeled. For any player, there’s going to be a couple times where things don’t go your way, but it’s how quickly can you get back to your game. He’s shown a great ability in that, not just in the playoffs, but all year.”
With defenseman Keith Ballard sidelined because of an upper-body injury, Nate Prosser, who was scratched in Games 3 and 4 after a couple of tough shifts in Games 1 and 2, slid back into the lineup over Jon Blum.
“You don’t go through a playoff like we have without anybody having a couple tough moments, so we’re expecting [Prosser] to come in and do what he’s done over and over for us; just be a real strong steady presence on the back end,” Yeo said.
In order to change the vibe after road losses in Games 1 and 2, the Wild’s visiting locker-room configuration was completely different for Game 5 Sunday. Every player had a different stall just like the Wild did for Game 7 in Denver last round after road losses in Games 1, 2 and 5.
“Switched it up,” laughed Zach Parise. “All of us went to our old stalls that we thought we were in, but they changed it up. Try to reverse the luck again.”
Game 6 at 8 p.m.
The NHL announced that Tuesday’s Game 6 at Xcel Energy Center will begin at 8 p.m. and be televised by CNBC.
• After being scratched three times in the playoffs and seeing fourth-line duty in two games against the Wild, Kris Versteeg returned to Chicago’s lineup and started the game on the Blackhawks’ top line with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell.
“We’re looking for more directness in his game, more pace,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Said Versteeg, “You obviously want to play. You also understand you try to be a part of a team here. Whatever it takes to win, you understand. You take it in stride and positively.”
• With Brandon Bollig suspended two games for boarding Ballard, Peter Regin made his playoff debut on the fourth line.
• Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival, who had a nightmarish Game 4, was scratched for Sheldon Brookbank.