Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL -- Matt Dumba knew he was going to have to answer the bell against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 15, but the Minnesota Wild defenseman never thought a wayward punch would jeopardize a career year that had him on pace for 30 goals. Dumba has no idea whether he will play again this season after having surgery to repair a torn pectoralis muscle in his right arm, suffered, he confirmed, during a fight with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk early in that 2-1 loss at Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PAUL -- Eric Staal had not scored in nine games, and he carried the burden as if it were devouring his soul. The blank stares, self-flagellation and vows by the 15-year veteran to trust his instincts became almost a nightly post-mortem in front of Staal’s locker as his slump wore him down with every Wild loss. That all gave way to an ear-to-ear smile Tuesday night, Jan. 15, after Staal scored a pivotal third-period goal in Minnesota’s 3-2 shootout victory over the lowly Los Angeles Kings.
ST. PAUL -- Devan Dubnyk has had a bad couple of games, and while an NHL goalie’s problems are always linked to the support in front of him, the Wild netminder has been noticeably off this season. He gave up five goals each in losses to Detroit on Saturday, Jan. 12, and Philadelphia on Monday, Jan. 14, just as the Wild appeared headed in the right direction. “I think Duby’s just tired,” coach Bruce Boudreau said before Tuesday’s against the Los Angeles Kings at the Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PAUL -- Sunday was a day of atonement for the Wild, whose no-show against the Red Wings the night before had their head coach still seeing red enough to put his players through an exhausting practice that left them chastened and wheezing. Nothing but one-on-one competitions and suffocating battle drills before the team scurried to the airport for a flight to Philadelphia and Tuesday’s date with the NHL’s worst team in the Flyers.
ST. PAUL -- With his hangdog face, slumped shoulders and whacking the boards in disgust, Jason Zucker wore his scoring drought hard, bemoaning it forcefully after the Wild’s 4-0 blanking in Boston on Tuesday, Jan. 8. One goal in 11 games will do that to a talented winger counted on to carry a lot of offensive water on a team perpetually thirsting for scoring. So coach Bruce Boudreau summoned Zucker for an ego boost the other day.
ST. PAUL -- When Matt Dumba was lost to a shoulder injury on Dec. 15, Minnesota Wild coaches and teammates immediately lamented losing the big defenseman’s slap shot on the power play.That was prescient. Not only did Dumba have six power-play goals in 32 games -- he’s still tied with Zach Parise for the team lead -- but in Bruce Boudreau’s words, “He was sort of running our power play.” “And you notice,” the Wild coach told reporters Thursday, Jan. 10, “it hasn’t been as successful as we would like it to be since he’s been gone.”
BOSTON -- Eric Staal stared ahead blankly in the visitor’s dressing room at TD Garden in Boston, searching for the right words to account for his scoring drought and his responsibility to pull out of it. The veteran center certainly has had his opportunities. His 13 goals are second behind Zach Parise’s 19 for the Minnesota Wild this season. He leads the Wild with 129 shots on goal. He routinely has the puck on his stick with a good look at the net, only to misfire or be stymied by the goaltender de jour.
BOSTON -- The original plan was for Joel Eriksson Ek to spend more time in the minors rebuilding his game and confidence, but the NHL refugee returned to the Wild on Tuesday, Jan. 8, much sooner than expected. Ek was in the lineup against the Boston Bruins in place of fourth-line center Eric Fehr, who left Monday’s 1-0 victory over Montreal early in the first period after being checked face-first into the boards by Canadiens winger Kenny Agostino. Coach Bruce Boudreau said before the game that Fehr was “just sore, but he’s fine” and not expected to be sidelined long term.
MONTREAL — During his darkest hours, Zach Parise wondered if he would ever be the same hockey player again. This was leading up to October 2017 back surgery, a procedure that saved the Wild winger’s career and has allowed him to enjoy a renaissance 2018-19 season. His back was so painful, Parise had to eat standing up and would ride in the back the family SUV to get places, all because of the herniated disc that was pinching a nerve that sent shooting pain throughout his left leg.
OTTAWA, Ontario — Speak softly and carry a big stick. The philosophy worked for Teddy Roosevelt, the Ragtime president whose outsized personality and voracious curiosity earned him a carving on Mount Rushmore. In style and stature no one will ever mistake Jared Spurgeon for the Bull Moose, though right now Minnesota’s diminutive defenseman is wielding a very big stick at both ends of the ice.