Jonas Brodin’s face is a mess.
“I haven’t seen him, but that’s what Donny says,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said Wednesday, referring to team athletic therapist Don Fuller. “[Brodin] needs a lot of dental work.”
The Wild’s 20-year-old top-pair defenseman also broke a cheekbone, which Fletcher said was “relatively good news.” It could have been a lot worse if Brodin had broken his jaw or orbital bone when he was struck by the puck on a Nashville dump-in early in Tuesday night’s 2-0 Wild victory.
Still, surgery hasn’t been ruled out, and the Wild will have a better idea of Brodin’s time frame for a return once that’s determined Thursday. Brodin won’t play Thursday against Carolina and will be sidelined indefinitely.
“That was pretty gruesome to watch, taking a puck in the face like that,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Brodin was off to a solid sophomore season, building on his already impressive defensive foundation while adding offense. After two goals and 11 points in 45 games last season, Brodin already had three goals and six points in his first nine games and was averaging nearly 26 minutes a night.
But no matter how long Brodin is out, the Wild feels it can overcome his loss if for no other reason than its strong defensive structure. Through 10 games, the Wild has given up 21.2 shots per game (fewest in the NHL), five 5-on-5 goals (fewest in the NHL) and 2.00 goals per game (fourth best in the NHL).
“Let’s put it this way, I’m not sitting here thinking, ‘Oh no, we lost Jonas and now we’re in trouble,’ ” Yeo said. “I still have a lot of confidence going into every game that we have a team capable of winning every night against any team. Obviously he’s a big loss for us, an important part of the team. Without question, we have the guys capable in there of keeping us at or even raising us to another level.”
Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter’s original defense partner before Brodin burst onto the scene four games into last season, will assume Brodin’s role. Quality play will be expected from Marco Scandella and Clayton Stoner, who both played well against Nashville.
“The minutes will be spread out more, and as long as we can keep limiting other team’s scoring chances, I don’t think there’s any concern,” Stoner said.
Getting a chance
With Brodin out, Nate Prosser, the eighth defenseman who has patiently waited for ice time the past two seasons, finally will get a chance.
“This is kind of the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Prosser, solid in 20 ½ minutes Tuesday. “Obviously you never want an injury; praying for Brods and hopefully a speedy recovery. But when a guy goes down, a guy’s got to step in and pick up their game. I’ve got to come in and be a good penalty killer, make a good first pass, be physical, chirp a little bit — whatever I can do to help out.”
Prosser often has been a healthy scratch the past two seasons, but the Wild was 11-6 with him in the lineup last season. He was on the ice for two goals against last season. Fletcher said this is why he hasn’t traded Prosser.
“He’s a good player. He’s caught behind a lot of good players, but when Nate plays, we win a lot of games,” Fletcher said. “Teammates know exactly what they’re going to get from him every game.”
With Keith Ballard expected to miss his fifth consecutive game because of a head injury (Ballard worked out Wednesday, but Yeo said the Wild is being cautious because of Ballard’s history of concussions), rookie Matt Dumba will get his shot.
Dumba has been inconsistent, understandable for a 19-year-old defenseman. He scored his first goal Oct. 12 against Dallas but also caused a 2-on-0 disadvantage against Tampa Bay and a Florida breakaway in consecutive games last week.
Yeo said part of Dumba’s adjustment from junior hockey is understanding he doesn’t have time to make that extra move at the blue line anymore. He was scratched against Nashville.
“[Tuesday night], I focused on guys like Spurg [Spurgeon] and Suts [Suter], how they move around the ice and their efficiency,” Dumba said. “I need to use that in my game, always being in the right position and moving the puck up ice quickly.”
Dumba has played six games. After he plays in nine, the Wild will decide whether to return him to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Yeo thinks that landmark is in Dumba’s head and has caused nerves.
Fletcher repeated Wednesday that in his mind, the 10-game threshold in which the first year of Dumba’s three-year contract is burned isn’t nearly as important as the 41-game threshold in which the first year toward Dumba’s seven-year unrestricted free agency status burns off.
“He’s just got to play and not worry about that stuff,” Fletcher said.
“Our defensive structure has been excellent all year. The way we move the puck … the coaches have done a great job implementing the system, and the players have bought in. We have the depth to overcome Jonas’ injury.”