The Wild’s depth on defense is thinning.
Defenseman Clayton Stoner is week-to-week with what General Manager Chuck Fletcher said is a sprained knee. Defenseman Keith Ballard missed his fourth consecutive game with a groin injury, so former Nashville Predators defenseman Jon Blum was recalled to play tonight against the Detroit Red Wings.
It will be his fifth game with the Wild and he should be here for the foreseeable future.
“We’re lucky we’ve got a guy like Blummer that can come up,” said coach Mike Yeo. “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 when he blocked a shot, but it’s not thought to be serious. Other defensemen in Iowa include Kyle Medvec and Tyler Cuma.
It’s believed Stoner was initially 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. “Could be three [weeks], could be a little longer. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”
Fletcher said he has also asked Wild director of hockey administration Shep Harder to contact the NHL and inquire about potential emergency conditions in case the Wild need to recall Matt Dumba from Western Hockey League Portland. Dumba scored eight goals and 24 points and was plus-31 in 26 games for Portland. The Winterhawks are currently matched up with Vancouver in the WHL playoffs.
As far as I know, there are tight restrictions. You typically can't call a junior player up if it's an inconvenience to his junior team, and a playoff round I'd assume could be deemed that. Even if the Wild was allowed to call up Dumba, if the Winterhawks are still alive, the NHL recall could only be for a certain number of days.
Cody McCormick won't play tonight against the Red Wings. Yeo said he'll keep his other forward scratch a secret until we watch warmups.
Will it be a guy like Stephane Veilleux, Justin Fontaine or Erik Haula or is there a possibility Yeo scratches a veteran like Dany Heatley or Kyle Brodziak. I don't see it being Brodziak. If one assumes Yeo will come back with the Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle line, he'll need Brodziak and Haula to play center.
Heatley has three shots in the past eight games and Yeo had an interesting, subtle thing to say when talking about Heatley.
On his limited shots, Yeo said, "Some of it, you lose a little bit of ice time. His role’s changed a little bit. There was awhile there where he was playing a fourth-line role. Last couple of games we've tried to surround him with some guys offensively that hopefully can get him the puck and get him in some areas. He a guy that, if in the lineup, we need him creating offense. That’s a 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?"
Yeo has been hesitant to scratch Heatley all season. I haven't looked it up, but if it ever gets to the point Heatley is scratched, it's got to be his first healthy scratch maybe ever in the NHL.
On Brodziak being on the ice for three goals yesterday and losing 8 of 11 faceoffs, Yeo said, "Last game to me was not what I saw the two previous games. Wasn’t crazy about last game. As far as the two previous games, I thought it was two of his best games since before the Olympic break. And that’s what we have to try to get him back to. Before the Olympic break, he was playing a real important role for our team. Last game wasn’t as good. Maybe it was fatigue, whatever, but we have to get him back."