Instead of embarking on a break like the rest of their Wild teammates, forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin will keep playing.
Both were assigned to Iowa of the American Hockey League Thursday, a day after the Wild played its final game before an eight-day layoff that starts with the NHL All-Star Game. The Wild cruised by the Avalanche 5-2 to remain third in the Central Division with 55 points.
After getting assigned to Iowa in December to help ignite his offensive potential, Eriksson Ek was recalled Jan.8 once center Eric Fehr went down with a lower-body injury. He appeared in nine straight games – chipping in a goal and two assists. Overall, the 21-year-old first-round pick in 2015 has two goals and seven points in 36 games with the Wild this season.
This is Kunin's first trip back to the minors since he was ushered from Iowa in early December. In 21 games, the 21-year-old recorded a goal and five points after he put up 15 points (eight goals) in 21 contests with Iowa.
Another first-round pick by the Wild, in 2016, Kunin has three goals and nine points in 40 career NHL games.
Iowa plays at Milwaukee Friday before visiting Rockford Saturday before that league pauses for its All-Star Classic.
These moves drop the Wild from the 23-man roster limit it was at heading into the break. Since the Wild will need to use one of those spots to activate Fehr from injured reserve once he's ready to return – which is likely when the team reconvenes Feb.1 with a game in Dallas against the Stars – it's possible only one of these players rejoins the Wild after the break if the team decides to recall anyone at all.
Lately, the two had been filling out a fourth line alongside winger Marcus Foligno.