DALLAS – Wild defenseman Ryan Suter says his strong start has nothing to do with the new coaching staff shaving his ice time.
“I’m just coming into my prime,” Suter, 31, joked before playing the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
Suter still ranks second in the league in ice time at 27 minutes, 18 seconds per game, but that’s down from 28:35 (second in the NHL) last season. He led the league in time on ice his first three seasons with the Wild at 27:16, 29:14 and 29:03 per game, respectively.
But, an interesting tidbit: Suter entered this season having played 30-minute games 92 times with the Wild. He has topped 30 once this season.
“We definitely need him. He’s a leader back there. He’s a steadying influence,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Suter, paired with Jared Spurgeon, is especially important because with Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin running well as the second defense pair, it has created a high-risk, high-reward, very young third pair of Matt Dumba and Mike Reilly — at least until Marco Scandella returns from a high ankle sprain probably Wednesday against Winnipeg.
Dumba and Reilly were on the ice during Nathan MacKinnon’s winning goal for Colorado on Saturday. Boudreau called Reilly’s gap on the goal “horrible,” although Boudreau said Reilly got caught in between because of a poor line change and many veterans would have made the same mistake.
“I’ve talked to [assistant coach Scott Stevens] about this, Reilly’s a very good prospect,” Boudreau said. “But you can’t not play [Dumba and Reilly]. You’ve got to play them to see what you’ve got in them, especially at this time of year. Dumba’s played some great games for us. I don’t have a problem [with playing them together]. Reilly … he hasn’t hurt us by any stretch, and Matt has had a positive impression on our team this year.”
Suter, in his 12th season and a veteran of 849 games, says it takes time for young defensemen to develop.
“Every game, the more I play, the more comfortable even I get,” Suter said. “It takes time to find your niche.”
Suter, who had a career-high 51 points last season, entered Monday with 13 points and a plus-9 in 17 games.
“I’ve got to continue to be consistent and hopefully that helps our team be consistent,” Suter said. “For me, it’s not about points. I’ve never been a points guy. In Nashville, I prided myself in making the playoffs, and here, we haven’t missed it. That’s how I pride myself.”
There were rumors Monday that Stars defenseman John Klingberg, who has been erratic, would be sent a message from coach Lindy Ruff with a healthy scratch. That’s because the Stars curiously recalled two defensemen Sunday even though only one was needed with veteran Johnny Oduya hurt. And one of the two recalled was Julius Honka, a similar defenseman to Klingberg.
If Klingberg was to be a healthy scratch, we may never know. That’s because Ruff benched him anyway for missing a morning meeting.
“For me, it sums up our year,” Ruff said of his up-and-down team. “[Sunday] was a day off for the team, but he’s going to be treated no differently than anybody else who’s missed meetings. [This is] what has frustrated me with our team. We haven’t been able to maintain a high enough level of consistency, and team-wise, that’s from some players.”
Klingberg was embarrassed and apologized to his teammates. Honka, 20, made his NHL debut.
• The Wild recalled right wing Christoph Bertschy on Sunday night as insurance in case illness struck a forward. Zach Parise missed Saturday’s game against Colorado because of strep throat, and defenseman Nate Prosser was sick Monday. Bertschy wound up a healthy scratch.