CHICAGO – Captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Jared Spurgeon accompanied the Wild to Chicago for the start of the team’s three-game road trip and although neither injured player suited up Sunday against the Blackhawks, both could be back in action as soon as Tuesday in Las Vegas.
“I guess we’ll see [Monday] at practice how they feel, and then we’ll figure it out from there,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Koivu and Spurgeon were hurt Dec. 3 at Florida, with Spurgeon suffering a hand injury in the first period and Koivu exiting the third because of a lower-body injury. Both have been skating, but Monday would be the first time they’ve joined a full Wild practice since they were injured.
Whenever the two return, Boudreau acknowledged he’d have some difficult lineup decisions to make — not just where to put Koivu and Spurgeon, with the current lines and pairings rolling, but also who to sub out.
The most intriguing dilemma could be on the blue line, since Jonas Brodin and Carson Soucy have emerged as a formidable duo. After another terrific showing by the two Saturday in the 4-1 win over the Flyers, Brodin ranked plus-10 over his previous six games and Soucy sat second among NHL rookies at plus-15.
If the Wild keeps those two together, that could push Matt Dumba to the third pairing next to Brad Hunt should the team reunite Spurgeon with Ryan Suter on the top unit.
“Usually these things all sort themselves out and players find a way to stay in or stay out,” Boudreau said.
Aside from defenseman Greg Pateryn (lower-body injury), the only other player who didn’t make the trip was center Joel Eriksson Ek.
He suffered an upper-body injury in the second period Saturday, looking wobbly after he was hit in the corner by Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier. The team is hopeful Eriksson Ek joins the trip in Vegas or the final stop in Arizona.
Without Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin centered the third line between Jordan Greenway and Ryan Hartman. Gerald Mayhew filled out the fourth line next to winger Marcus Foligno and center Victor Rask.
Back to Kahkonen
Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen was back in net Sunday, his third start in the past four games.
By going 1-0-1 earlier in the week, the 23-year-old rookie became just the 48th goalie all-time to begin his career with a point streak of at least four starts (3-0-1), according to NHL Stats.
Kahkonen is also just the second goalie in team history to start his Wild career on a point streak of at least four starts; he joins Ilya Bryzgalov, who went 2-0-2 en route to a 7-0-3 debut with the team.
Watching and texting
Goalie Devan Dubnyk, who’s been mostly away from the team since Nov.20 while his wife, Jenn, deals with a medical situation, also traveled with the Wild this trip.
Before then, Dubnyk kept tabs on the Wild by watching games and tried to stay in touch via text message.
“The guys have been playing awesome,” Dubnyk said. “They’re playing fast and defending well and not just that but just kind of the game flow — we seem to be reacting extremely well to just about every single situation and putting ourselves in a great opportunity to get points and get two.
“It’s been fun to watch. I’m looking forward to hopping in there and being a part of it.”
Dubnyk also singled out Kahkonen and Alex Stalock for their strong play, adding that the team’s performance overall while Dubnyk has been away has made his absence easier to handle.
“If the walls are crumbling down, all of a sudden, you’re starting to look to get back and you’d be playing a game here, a game there and ducking in and out,” Dubnyk said. “It certainly adds more pressure to a difficult situation. But to be able to watch these guys play as well as they have, it lets you forget about it and get everything in order here so that when I do come back I’m ready to go.”