BUFFALO, N.Y. – With Marco Scandella and minor league call-up Justin Falk hurt, and Ryan Suter suspended for the first of two games, the Wild’s blue line was a hodgepodge Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Right defenseman Jonas Brodin again had to play the left side on a newly formed top pair with rookie Christian Folin. Right-shot defenseman Jared Spurgeon moved to left D for the first time in his pro career and was paired with Nate Prosser. And recent minor league call-up Jon Blum, a right shot who had previously struggled on the unorthodox left side, had to play there alongside right-shot defenseman Matt Dumba, who was recalled to play his first NHL game since Nov. 28.
A disappointed Suter declined to comment about his suspension. Because of his clean track record, Suter was stunned the league didn’t let him off with only a fine for elbowing Steve Downie.
At minus-21 in his past 20 games, Suter could perhaps use the mental break and a “chance to reset,” coach Mike Yeo said.
“We’ve talked a lot about his plus-minus and how frustrating and disappointing that is for him, [so this is a chance] to clear his head,” Yeo said. “But physically, we demand so much from [Suter], especially when Marco’s been out. It seems like we’ve had one of our top-four D-men out almost all year long, and with that, we’ve asked an awful lot of him, especially with him coming back after [the mumps].
“So typically what we would do on a day like [Thursday], we would skate him into the ground. But we’ve instructed our coaches that he really does basically no extra work today. [Friday with J.P. Parise’s funeral], another off day for him. Two good rest days.”
Yeo noted that seven weeks in Iowa made Dumba, 20, look more mature, a quip about his cool-looking goatee.
“That’s what I was going for. I needed to grow a good goatee just like [Yeo],” Dumba said, laughing. “It’s been a good experience down there. I’ve been playing lots of minutes and I think my game’s coming in a good way. Just want to keep going on that, keep improving every day.”
Dumba made his presence felt. He had his first career fight, against Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslauriers, in the first period. In the second period, he scored for the second time this season. He finished plus-3 as the Wild won 7-0.
“We know he has a chance to be impactful [offensively]. I definitely want to see the consistency … in his defensive game,” Yeo said. “From my understanding, he’s been playing more of a controlled game and we’re going to need that from him.”
New guy starts
After a year in which he was traded from Edmonton to Nashville to Montreal last season and ended in Hamilton of the AHL, goalie Devan Dubnyk resurrected his career this season in Arizona.
“If you asked me before the start of last season what the absolute worst outcome of a season could be, I probably wouldn’t have told you half of what happened,” said Dubnyk, who made his Wild debut with an 18-save shutout. “It was a long and difficult season for me. … To get a chance to come somewhere and play games is exciting for me.”
Yeo hopes Dubnyk can help push struggling Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper. “The way things have gone lately between Backy and Kuemps, there’s no doubt that their confidence is not high right now,” Yeo said.
• Center Mikael Granlund (wrist surgery), Kuemper (lower body) and Scandella (upper body) are all close to rejoining the team for practice, maybe as early as Saturday’s morning skate.
• Goalie Josh Harding remains sidelined because of issues related to multiple sclerosis. Said GM Chuck Fletcher, “He isn’t an option for us right now and isn’t close to being an option.”
• Goalie John Curry was reassigned to Iowa.
• Jordan Schroeder was scratched for a third consecutive game.