SUNRISE, Fla. – More will become clear on who’s healthy and who isn’t when the Wild takes to the ice Wednesday afternoon in Tampa for practice ahead of its next stop on this three-game road trip.
But if defenseman Jared Spurgeon and captain Mikko Koivu are unavailable for Thursday’s matchup with the Lightning after not finishing the 4-2 win over the Panthers Tuesday at BB&T Center, the team has options currently on the roster and in the minors to help fill those voids.
“I don’t know if anybody really knows what’s going on,” winger Zach Parise said. “Right now, it’s kind of wait and see. And if it happens, it’s almost like we’re used to this.”
Spurgeon exited with an upper-body injury in the first period after blocking a shot that appeared to catch him in the right arm area since he stopped holding his stick with that hand.
What happened to Koivu is unclear; he reported for the third period and took a shift but then didn’t play.
Coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t have any updates after the game.
“It’s not every day you lose two guys during the course of the game and one early in the first period and a player of that quality, too,” Boudreau said. “Both of them [are] very important guys down the stretch.”
If Spurgeon is sidelined for any amount of time, the Wild could plug his spot with a right shot from Iowa in the American Hockey League.
Louie Belpedio, one of the final cuts in training camp, and Woodbury’s Brennan Menell are both healthy and have had steady starts to their seasons.
Greg Pateryn, who’s on the mend from core muscle surgery, is also with Iowa for a conditioning assignment. His first game is scheduled for Wednesday, and the plan is also for him to play Friday. But that could change.
Pateryn has already been activated from injured reserve.
But maybe Nick Seeler gets the first crack if Spurgeon can’t play, even though he is a left shot and that would leave only one natural righty on the right side of the Wild’s lineup (Matt Dumba). Brad Hunt, who plays on the right on the third pairing, is a lefty.
“Seels has been a great professional here sitting out and working real hard,” Boudreau said of Seeler, who’s been a healthy scratch 24 games. “I think he certainly deserves the opportunity to play in Tampa.”
As for up front, the Wild is already carrying an extra forward. Ryan Donato, who has experience up the middle, was the healthy scratch Tuesday. But Boudreau also mentioned Luke Kunin and Ryan Hartman as right wingers who have played center.
Despite this in-game adversity, the Wild persevered to keep its season-high point streak alive – extending it to 10 games (7-0-3), which is tied for the second-longest in franchise history.
The rally started in a second period that had a unique feel to it.
Although the Panthers outshot the Wild 19-9, the Wild was the only team to score – capitalizing twice.
“I thought we actually carried the play in the second,” winger Jason Zucker said. “Shots are shots, but I think they had one or two power plays so they had a couple good shots on that, for sure. They try and shoot from everywhere. They had a couple good shots, but … we had a couple opportunistic looks and put them away.”
All of the Wild’s goals came on impressive individual efforts, workman-like plays that helped explain why the Wild climbed out of the two-goal hole.
Zucker forced a turnover at the Wild’s blue line to skate in on a breakaway that he buried. Winger Mats Zuccarello picked the puck off a Panthers defender and peeled into the right faceoff circle before wiring in a shot while in between two Panthers players.
And defenseman Carson Soucy, amid a career-high 17 minutes, 4 seconds of ice time, delivered the game-winner (the first of his career) when he pinched, literally caught a Parise pass, deposited it on the ice and then slid in a backhander.
“Sometimes it’s just about that second effort and doing the right things and when you get the chance, taking advantage of it,” Zucker said. “Soucy’s play was awesome. Having the poise to set that puck down and still get a shot on net.”
Even goalie Kaapo Kahkonen nearly got in on the scoring action, flipping a puck down ice that landed just wide of an empty net late in the third period.
“First thing is to get the puck out of the zone,” Kahkonen said. “But if you can shoot it in the middle, you can try to go for it.”
Although he missed, Kahkonen was spot-on in net after the Panthers’ two goals – stopping all 36 of their remaining shots to finish with 44 saves – the most for a Wild rookie goalie.
“I don’t think anything fazes him,” Boudreau said. “We got a 3-2 lead, and he’s trying to score. It was nonchalant, and he just got the puck, ‘I’m going for it.’"