LAS VEGAS – This three-game road trip isn’t just affecting the Wild’s record.
It’s also sapping the team’s manpower.
With captain Mikko Koivu sent back to Minnesota to get treatment for a lower-body injury, coach Bruce Boudreau announced Tuesday night after a 3-2 loss to the Golden Knights that winger Jason Zucker is also returning to the Twin Cities with a lower-body injury that’ll keep him out week-to-week.
Zucker is the latest regular to get hurt, joining Koivu, center Joel Eriksson Ek (upper body) and Jared Spurgeon (hand).
Eriksson Ek is also back home after not traveling, but Spurgeon remains on the trip.
“I don’t want to make any notes about the roster,” Boudreau said. “The roster is an NHL roster that played fine. What happened is we made some dumb plays, and they capitalized on the goals. I look around the league and some of the teams that have 200-man games lost, 150-man games lost already. We’re not going to cry, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ because we got a couple guys hurt.”
Zucker was injured Sunday, in the 5-3 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago, after getting hit by a Brent Seabrook slapshot. After leaving the action briefly, he returned and finished out the game but was ruled out of Tuesday’s game.
With 12 goals and 24 points, Zucker is among the top offensive producers for the Wild.
“If you can’t win without a couple guys, then you don’t deserve to win,” Boudreau said.
Zucker’s seven points on the power play are tied for the second-most on the Wild, and the team could have used that help against Vegas.
Although the Wild opened the scoring during a 5-on-3 advantage, it blanked on its next four tries – costly misses in an eventual one-goal game.
Winger Zach Parise pulled the Wild within a goal with 1 minute, 15 seconds to go when he capitalized during a 6-on-5 setup, with goalie Alex Stalock on the bench for an extra attacker.
“This is a game you need two goals on the power play,” Boudreau said. “You get five power play attempts, you need those things to go in. When we got the 6-on-5, all we were doing is exactly what we were supposed to be doing on the power play and we ended up scoring a goal.”
The game was also rife with tension; in the second period, Deryk Engelland cross-checked Staal from behind while Staal was down on the ice. When he finally got up, Staal skated off gingerly and appeared to be clutching his left arm – which was similar to how he left the ice following a collision with a linesman last week in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks.
But after getting evaluated on the bench, Staal returned and exchanged words with Engelland before others interfered.
“I was already laying on the ice and just trying to get up and [to] continue to give him free shots, that's the ref’s job,” Staal said. “[Engelland’s] doing his job. You want that. If I'm on his team and he's playing hard like that, that's what you want. But obviously with what I'm dealing with, [I] wasn't feeling very good. But it's fine. We're playing hard.”
This was the first time the Wild suffered consecutive losses in regulation since Oct.29-30, a mini-slide that certainly ups the urgency of Thursday’s trip finale in Arizona.
“For sure,” winger Jordan Greenway said. “We want to stop this as quick as we can. We were going to lose. We had a really good run and were going to lose eventually. Obviously, we don't want to keep this thing going. I think next game is a great opportunity to put a stop to it.”