Morning update: The Wild placed forwards Jason Zucker and Ryan Carter on injured reserve this morning following the injuries suffered during Monday's 5-3 victory over Vancouver.
Brett Sutter and Stu Bickel are being called up.
In addition to the injuries themselves, the Wild needed to make the move because it has three goalies on the roster with this week's recall of Darcy Kuemper from Iowa.
From last night:
The Wild lost Zucker and Carter to upper-body injuries in the first period.
“We should not expect them back in the lineup in the near future,” coach Mike Yeo ominously said after the Wild’s sixth consecutive regulation win pulled the now 9th-place team (8-1-1 in its past 10 overall) within three points of a playoff spot and six points of Winnipeg heading into Tuesday’s game in northern Minnesota (Manitoba).
I’m told Carter was in a sling after the game and personally it looked to me that Zucker also sustained a shoulder injury. The Wild’s 18-goal scorer (17 even-strength goals) got jolted pretty good chasing a loose puck along the wall by defenseman Luca Sbisa. A few minutes before, Carter crashed hard into the boards after being checked by defenseman Yannick Weber.
The Wild had to use 10 forwards for 50-plus minutes tonight and did look like they started to get gassed late in the game. Jason Pominville credited coach Mike Yeo for helping navigate a convoluted bench as Yeo had to mix and match forward lines all night.
Both Yeo and Pominville, who snapped a 12-game goal drought tonight, joked that they were surprised it took the team so long to get a too-many-men penalty (the first and only Vancouver power play of the game with 3:49 left). The Wild did a great job staying out of the box with two penalty killers in Zucker and Carter hurt.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Wild does for Tuesday’s big game at Winnipeg. Justin Fontaine, who has missed the past four games with a groin injury, will obviously step back into the lineup, but perhaps the Wild recalls two forwards and scratches somebody like Erik Haula, who had a tough game, just to get three fresh bodies into a lineup that could be a bit tired Tuesday.
Regardless, even if the Wild only calls one forward up, it’ll likely need to be somebody like Stephane Veilleux or Brett Sutter who can play a penalty killing role. Veilleux has played good games in Winnipeg. Tyler Graovac also made his NHL debut in Winnipeg in December and played a decent game. Sutter was called up that day as well if I remember correctly.
Niederreiter took Zucker’s spot with Mikko Koivu, who had three assists tonight, and Pominville and Koivu set up Niederreiter on a give-and-go their first shift together.
“That’s the toughest part losing those two guys for sure,” Niederreiter said. “They’re very important players for us. Zucker has tremendous speed and has been helping our team a lot with goals and Carts is very physical and been a great part of our PK. It’s definitely hard to lose those guys. For myself, I just have to make sure I step in that position and make the best out of it.”
Niederreiter, who has been patient all season with limited ice time, said he has to “make sure I keep playing my game and not think I have two great players next to me and start passing up shots. I have to make simple plays, shoot and be physical along the wall.”
Niederreiter was plus-2, had three shots and five hits tonight. Charlie Coyle also set up former Canuck and Manitoba Moose Jordan Schroeder’s first goal with the Wild and was a physical force all night long. He finished with four hits.
Coyle said that has to continue and everybody on the team has to start pulling more rope with Carter and Zucker hurt.
Remember, Matt Cooke is also out until at least mid-March following sports hernia surgery, so the Wild’s forward depth is starting to take a hit.
Ryan Suter scored the winning goal tonight and had an assist. He snapped a 46-game goal drought with his first goal since opening night.
Kyle Brodziak a goal, plus-2, a scrap.
Pominville snapped a 12-game drought and said, “It’s almost like someone put a spell on me or something.”
Ex-Sabre Thomas Vanek set up his former Sabres linemate for an open-net gimme past former Sabres teammate Ryan Miller, who’d get chased after allowing five goals on 18 shots through 27 minutes, 59 seconds.
Pominville said, “It’s extra special to get one against Millsie. I’ve spoke really high about him. I think he’s one of the best in the game. I feel he knows where I’m going to shoot before I even shoot, so it was nice to get a freebie by Thomas.”
A few minutes later after Sbisa took a run at Zach Parise, Sbisa took a swing at Pominville and then Miller came out to push his old teammate.
“He was probably mad. He’s competitive and probably wasn’t happy at the time,” Pominville said.
Koivu was dominant in all three zones, won 13 of 20 faceoffs and had his 11th career 3-assist game, 24th career 3-point game and 112th career multi-point game (two from tying Marian Gaborik’s team record).
Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves and is now 8-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average, .940 save percentage in 10 starts.
Yeo said the Wild will decide Tuesday whether to start Dubnyk or Darcy Kuemper, who made 28 saves in a win at Winnipeg on Dec. 29, against the Jets. The deal is this: the Wild plays every other night starting Thursday against Florida with travel for the next nine games. Dubnyk did tweak his back in practice Friday, although he has shown no signs of it affecting him. And the only time the Wild has seen him in a second of a back to back, he allowed four goals on 10 shots (even though none were his fault in my opinion) in Detroit the game before the All-Star break and was chased. Kuemper came in and stopped all 14 shots he saw as the Wild rallied for a point.
The Wild cannot burn Dubnyk out. The Wild cannot get Dubnyk hurt. You have seen this team without him. So if Kuemper starts, that is why.
Yeo said, “The decision is going to be based on Duby. I’ll talk to [goalie coach Bob] Mason and we’ll decide as a coaching group as far as the workload he had tonight, the travel, what time we get in, probably the decision will be made [Tuesday]. Kuemps has won some big games, he’s got some shutouts, he’s done a lot of good things, he’s played some good hockey against Winnipeg. And obviously we’re all aware of what Duby’s done. So it’s not an easy decision but one that we’ll spend some time on.”
On the win despite the injuries, Yeo said, “It was adversity we faced tonight, but the guys kept plowing away. There are still areas of our game we have to make sure we get better at. In a lot of ways it was kind of a tough game to play. We got up and when they were down by a little bit they started trying to open up things, that led to some odd man breaks and some rush opportunities for us. I thought we could have controlled some situations a little bit better than we did.
“I just think overall it’s a big win, we have to make sure we put it behind us quickly, I think we’re going to have to be ready to be better [Tuesday].
“Tonight was a huge win for us, but there were some parts of our game I want to make sure we’re better at for [Tuesdau] because overall during this stretch we’ve been doing it with defense, we’ve been doing it with managing the puck the right way. Tonight we did it with offense, and that’s great, you’ve got to be able to find different ways to win hockey games. But we can’t expect to do that consistently, especially now we’re going to be missing a couple guys from the lineup. There are going to be times where that’s the type of game it’s going to be, and you have to win those types of games, but it’s got to be defense first. We have skill in the lineup, but every team has skill in the lineup. We have to make sure we’re focused on being better defensively, playing better as a team and putting in the work ethic that’s needed.”
That’s it for me. Wild's 6-1 in its past seven against the Canucks. Wild, by the way, is 20-8 this season with Matt Dumba in the lineup and 6-12-6 without him
I was technically off today despite, well, being here all day working. So check out Rachel’s stories in Tuesday’s paper. I’ll touch base with you with the callup(s) after I land in Winnipeg in the late morning. Access likely won’t be until a couple hours before gametime though, so I may not have full lineup info, starting goalie info and update injury info until right before the game.