Matt Cooke got relatively good news Friday.
The Wild left winger underwent surgery in St. Louis to repair a sports hernia, but coach Mike Yeo said Cooke is expected to miss five to six weeks, meaning he could return by the middle of March. It was originally expected Cooke could miss the rest of the regular season.
For now, the Wild plans to try to get by with what it has internally.
“It’s fortunate we brought in [Ryan Carter] this year,” Yeo said. “He’s been a real physical player for us … and we’re going to need more of that. “And quite honestly, we’re going to need some other guys to pick up some slack in the physical element of the game.”
General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he would talk to teams and if something makes sense he would make a trade by the March 2 deadline. But for now, Fletcher said there are physical players who can fill the void.
“We’ve got guys down in Iowa that can come up and play and that have come up and played before [Stephane Veilleux, Brett Sutter, Tyler Graovac],” Fletcher said. “We’ll go with what we have for now.”
Cooke, 36, missed 22 games from Oct. 30 to Dec. 17 because of a hip injury. He had three torn muscles, including the psoas major, which attaches to the femur, and two other supporting hip flexor muscles. Cooke, who has another year left on his contract at $2.5 million, led the Wild in hits last season and had 10 goals and 28 points in 82 games. This season, he has four goals and four assists in 27 games.
Yeo said the Wild will miss his vocal leadership.
“It is nice to have some vocal guys and some guys that will stand up in the locker room and get on the group if that’s what needed,” Yeo said. “He is part of that.”
‘The Giraffe’ mask
Goalie Devan Dubnyk, nicknamed “Giraffe” during his Kamloops career in the Western Hockey League because of his long torso, will unveil his new giraffe-themed Wild mask Saturday against Colorado despite a four-game win streak in which he has allowed three goals.
“I’m not superstitious,” he said. “There’s more important things for me to be thinking about on the ice. I’ll forget I’ll even have it on.”
Like his other masks, the new one has a breast cancer ribbon in honor of his mom and a sketch of his son, Nathaniel, on the back. Dubnyk has been on five teams the past year, so he joked he has had so many masks, “I pretty much documented my newborn to a year and a half old. Hopefully it’ll just be year to year from now on. One each year is plenty.”
• Yeo doesn’t plan any lineup changes Saturday. That means rookie defenseman Christian Folin will be scratched for a fourth consecutive game and right wing Justin Fontaine, who practiced Friday for the first time since sustaining a groin injury Jan. 29, won’t play.
• Darcy Kuemper’s rehab stint at Iowa is close to ending. After a 28-save shutout against Adirondack on Wednesday, he started Friday in Hamilton and made 23 saves in a 5-3 Iowa victory. After that game a decision will be made whether he can play Saturday afternoon in Toronto. He will be back in Minnesota by Monday.