After his top defensive pair faltered in Sunday’s loss at Chicago, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he would “reevaluate’’ whether to keep Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba together. Splitting them up, though, would have a trickle-down effect.
The second pair, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, has become an exceptional shutdown tandem through the first 21 games. Tuesday, Boudreau decided to take the calculated risk of reconfiguring his top four in the hope of creating two well-balanced duos. During a practice at Tria Rink, he reassembled some tried-and-true partnerships, reuniting Suter with Spurgeon and putting Dumba alongside Brodin.
Suter and Dumba are among the top-scoring defensemen in the NHL, but their shaky defensive play Sunday contributed to a 3-1 Blackhawks victory. Boudreau anticipates the changes will allow Suter and Dumba to continue to provide offense while adding stability on defense.
“I just thought it was time,’’ Boudreau said. “[Brodin] is playing really good. He can protect [Dumba] when he goes up a little bit more, and [Spurgeon] can help a little bit more with Ryan.
“It just was something I thought could be done. The one good thing is, you can change it back in 30 seconds. But everyone is OK with it. They’re all comfortable with each other.’’
The Suter-Spurgeon and Dumba-Brodin pairings were a mainstay last season when all the Wild’s defensemen were healthy. While Spurgeon was recovering from an injury, Dumba took his place alongside Suter and flourished. Boudreau, convinced that Dumba played better when paired with Suter, put them together to start this season.
Dumba is ranked second among NHL defensemen in goals (eight), and Suter is tied for ninth in points (15). But Dumba recently has struggled with turnovers and positioning mistakes, and Sunday, he and Suter were on the ice for all three Chicago goals.
As much as Spurgeon appreciated the chemistry he built with Brodin, he agreed with Boudreau that the defensemen can easily swap places because they know each other so well.
“I thought we were playing pretty well together,’’ Spurgeon said. “But you just play with who you’re put with. We just have to be able to roll six [defensemen].’’
Foligno feeling fine
Marcus Foligno, who was helped off the ice Sunday after a hard shot hit him in the right leg, was back at full speed Tuesday. The fourth-line forward rested during a day off Monday and showed no ill effects during a lively practice.
Foligno blocked a Brent Seabrook shot in the third period, taking the impact on the outside of his lower leg. He briefly lost feeling in the leg and was limping after the game, but X-rays showed no serious injury.
“I had a feeling he’d be out there,’’ Boudreau said after the practice. “Unless it was broken, he was going to find a way.’’
Success to the south
In five previous seasons, the Iowa Wild never has finished higher than fifth in its division in the American Hockey League. Through Monday’s games, the Wild’s minor league affiliate had an 11-4-1 record, and its 23 points topped the Central Division.
The Iowa Wild is tied for second in victories in the 31-team league and tied for fourth in points, a development that has delighted Boudreau.
“We know there are good players to call up at any certain time down there,’’ he said. “We won’t hesitate to do it because they’re playing so well.
“They’re doing exactly what you need a minor league team to do. When they win, they gain confidence, and they get used to winning. When you get used to winning, all of a sudden, it runs through the organization.’’