The Wild has never been here before, facing the foreseeable future without defenseman Ryan Suter.
Ever since he signed on for 13 years in 2012, at the price tag of $98 million, Suter has served the Wild for all but five games, and none of those absences was because he was hurt. He had the mumps, was suspended and was held out of a meaningless game before the playoffs.
His reliability is as much his calling card as the way he patrols the defensive zone or funnels the puck up ice to generate offense.
But with Suter unavailable the rest of the way, sidelined for the season after requiring surgery to fix a right ankle fracture, the Wild will have to adjust to life sans its No. 1 blue liner.
And the post-Suter era got off to a solid start Monday, as the Wild shut out the Oilers 3-0 in front of 19,189 at Xcel Energy Center to help it advance to the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
“You don’t want to go out there and get blown out and start to wonder how it’s going to be,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “To be able to go out there and not give up any goals against as a group, that’s certainly a good confidence boost to start.”
This performance pushed the team to the brink of clinching a playoff spot at 98 points, and a 3-1 loss by the Avalanche to the Kings late Monday night sealed the berth.
But before the Wild could scoreboard watch, it had to take care of its own business in its final home game of the regular season. And it did, with Dubnyk posting 22 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and winger Zach Parise supplying the bulk of the offense.
The first came just 3 minutes, 33 seconds after puck drop when Parise capitalized on a breakaway by going five-hole on Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot, who made 37 saves.
It was the first time in seven games in which the Wild scored first.
In the second, Parise buried the rebound off a Jonas Brodin shot at 8:24.
Parise now ranks fifth on the Wild in goals with 15 despite missing the first 39 games of the season after back surgery to fix a herniated disk. He’s in the midst of a season-high seven-game point streak and has 24 in 40 games. The Wild improved to 24-9-7 with him in the lineup.
“I’m getting some good looks,” Parise said.
After the goal, the Wild had no problem holding off the Oilers; it outshot Edmonton 21-3 in the third, and center Joel Eriksson Ek scored into an empty net with 44 seconds to go.
The methodical way the game played out seemed like a feel-good beginning for the Wild’s new look on the back end.
Matt Dumba and Brodin managed to prevent Oilers captain Connor McDavid from padding his NHL points lead, and Carson Soucy logged 15:26 in an NHL debut that included him drawing the Wild’s only power play. The Wild blanked on that chance and one more while snuffing out two power-play opportunities for Edmonton.
Overall, the Wild finished with 62 points on home ice — the second-best total in franchise history.
“There’s always guys going down, whether it’s during the playoffs or during the season,” Dubnyk said. “You need different people to step up and do important things, and that’s going to be the case for us. That was a good look for us tonight.”