TAMPA, FLA. — The Wild defense won't be back to full strength for at least the next handful of games.
Captain Jared Spurgeon is sidelined "week to week" because of a lower-body injury that forced him out of Saturday's 5-4 loss at Florida.
Spurgeon has remained on the road with the Wild, which wraps up this three-game trip on Wednesday at New Jersey.
"You can't replace a guy like Spurgy," goaltender Cam Talbot said. "He does so much for this team, on the ice and off the ice. I think it's just going to be a committee kind of thing. Everyone has to step up, myself included, but it's also an opportunity for those guys to get some more minutes and to step up and kind of fill those minutes because you can't replace a guy like that.
"You just hope to weather the storm until he's back."
Jordie Benn was added to the lineup on Sunday in the Wild's first game this season without Spurgeon, who has three goals and five assists. Benn earned his first point with the team in the 5-4 shootout loss to Tampa Bay, an assist on the Wild's second goal. He'll stay in action against the Devils.
"It was nice to contribute," Benn said Sunday, "and we pulled one big point out of that game."
A healthy scratch most of the season, Benn continued to work on the third pairing next to Dmitry Kulikov when the Wild practiced Tuesday in Tampa before flying north. Alex Goligoski, Spurgeon's usual partner, was alongside Jon Merrill, and the Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba duo remained intact.
Calen Addison is also with the team after he was recalled from the minors on Sunday.
"Really liked how Jordie Benn played the game the other night," coach Dean Evason said. "Obviously, he had a really nice assist. But he played the game with a sense of urgency that we've asked him to play with, with that bite that we know he can play with, and was an asset for our hockey club.
"We talked about our depth in all areas, and the blue line is one of them. [Benn], in particular, has not got in games because guys have played well. It's nice to have that depth in all areas of our game."
While the defense won't change vs. the Devils, the Wild will make a few other tweaks.
Talbot will be back in net after backing up Kaapo Kahkonen on Sunday, and Nick Bjugstad will sub in for Victor Rask after sitting out the past three games. The Wild also juggled a few other lines at practice, having Frederick Gaudreau center Kevin Fiala and Rem Pitlick and reuniting Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello with Ryan Hartman as their center.
Although the Wild has dropped the first two games on this trip, the team still has an opportunity to return home on the upswing if it wins at New Jersey.
That would give the Wild three out a possible six points, a decent showing considering the competition.
Before facing off against the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Lightning, the Wild took on one of the NHL's top teams in the Panthers and almost caught up to them with two last-minute goals during the third period in an eventual 5-4 defeat.
Two more late-game goals against Tampa ensured the team didn't leave Florida empty-handed.
"Obviously, it's a big two points," Talbot said. "We're definitely looking forward to a little redemption game here [Wednesday] night. We need to bring our 'A' games. It's going to be another tough test for us."