Wild defenseman Dmitry Kulikov played almost 18 minutes Saturday in Colorado, one of his busiest games of the season.
But he was absent for a chunk of the third period.
He was in the locker room getting stitched up after taking a puck off the right ear.
"A little bit of stars and ringing in the ear," said Kulikov, who was in the lineup against the Avalanche after sitting out the previous game at Seattle with a lower-body injury. "It's one of those things that you can't control. Sometimes it can happen. It's something that just happens in a game. But I've seen guys get hit in the head and never play a game again or miss a whole season, so I think I got lucky and fortunate in that incident. It didn't do anything more than just a cut in the ear."
After receiving stitches — he didn't ask how many — Kulikov returned to the game, a 4-1 loss for the Wild, and was back in action Tuesday against the Senators at Xcel Energy Center.
He remained on the top pairing alongside captain Jared Spurgeon with Alex Goligoski still sidelined with injury, a promotion that has highlighted the versatility Kulikov has brought to the Wild.
Not only has the 31-year-old arrived as the gritty defender he was billed as when the Wild acquired him, with Kulikov receiving regular assignments on the penalty kill, but supporting the offense also appeals to him.
Kulikov registered his third assist on Tuesday when the rebound from a puck he threw on net from near the Ottawa goal line was eventually buried by Nico Sturm in the first period.
"The conversation was at the beginning of the season that I'm a guy that can play up and down the lineup and I have some skill," said Kulikov, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract as a free agent in July. "I think I've shown it in the training camp and the first few games of the season. There's some injuries in the lineup, and I'm playing with Spurge now.
"It's a big honor, and I'm kind of embracing that opportunity and want to fit in in that role as much as I can."
Goligoski (upper-body injury) practiced Monday and skated Tuesday morning but did not play against the Senators.
"If this was a playoff game, maybe he would have been able to draw in there," coach Dean Evason said. "But we want to heal up correctly before we put anybody in."
Assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, goaltending coach Frederic Chabot and video coach T.J. Jindra have rejoined the Wild after being in the NHL's COVID protocols.