LAS VEGAS – Wild defenseman Ryan Suter wondered if he'd ever be able to walk again.
His right ankle was shattered, the outside of his fibula and talus broken after his foot slammed into the boards last March. It was the type of injury that could have ended his career if he played football, soccer or basketball.
But Suter vowed to return to hockey.
He wanted to participate in training camp when it opened in September, and although he questioned whether that was a realistic timeline, Suter was on the ice for the first day of practice.
It was just the beginning of a remarkable comeback. Suter has gone on to appear in every regular-season game for the Wild while logging more minutes than any other player in the league — an impressive response to such a severe setback that Suter has been nominated by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"I wanted to prove people wrong," Suter said. "People told me that I couldn't do it, and that was my motivation."
Through 77 games, the Wild's No. 1 defenseman has skated 2,068 minutes, 44 seconds and averaged a league-high 26:52 per game. And that ice time has continued to be productive.
Since recovering from the injury, Suter became only the seventh player in franchise history to tally 300 points with the team. He reached the 30-assist plateau for the 10th time in 14 seasons, and Suter ranks second among active NHL defensemen (457) and second in Wild history (257) in that category.
The 34-year-old appeared in his 1,000th game in October, and that same month he recorded his 500th career point. He's only the 51st defenseman to achieve both feats.
These are praiseworthy accolades, but even more exceptional on the heels of what Suter experienced.
After he was hit into the boards March 31, 2018, against the Dallas Stars, Suter didn't put any weight on his ankle for the first three months of his recovery. He got around on a knee scooter, and he slept in a recliner for the first month and a half next to a mattress that he could roll onto in the kitchen.
"I couldn't do anything," Suter recalled. "My wife was babysitting me and the kids. She had to bring me everything."
Once he resumed playing, Suter was still struggling. The first four months of the season were a challenge, and he worried he would hurt his back because of how much of his weight he shifted to his left side instead of his right. In between games, he couldn't walk.
And yet Suter didn't leave the lineup, getting to the point where he is now — feeling 100 percent.
"I was always raised, you just battle through it," Suter said. "Whatever it is, you find a way through it and eventually it'll get better."
Center Joel Eriksson Ek returned to the Wild lineup Friday against the Golden Knights after missing seven games because of a lower-body injury, but winger Zach Parise remained out with a lower-body injury, his third consecutive absence.
With Parise unavailable, winger Matt Read played after clearing waivers earlier in the day. The team plans to keep Read in the NHL for now, but it has the flexibility to assign him to the American Hockey League without requiring waivers again.
Back to work
Winger Jason Zucker arrived in Las Vegas on Friday morning instead of traveling with the team the day before, spending extra time with his daughter, Stella, after she was born Wednesday.
"It's weird leaving for the first time," Zucker said. "Definitely kind of miss them already, but I know she's in good hands."