Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune had a productive morning today, publishing an article with news and notes on a number of intriguing Minnesota Wild-related topics. The full post is of course worth a read but here are some of the highlights:
- Mathew Dumba was set to be scratched for Thursday night’s game against Toronto but drew into the lineup because Marco Scandella was ill and could not suit up. Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau thinks the threat of a benching alone might have served as a wakeup call for the talented, fourth-year pro: “I think the fact he was supposed to sit out one game and go back in could be the Wally Pipp syndrome. It might have opened his eyes for him to start playing the way he’s capable of playing.” Dumba agreed with his coach, saying: “I didn’t like it. I took it in a way that if I got back in the lineup I was never going to let that happen again. That’s the kind of motivation that I have. Just pride as a player. I hold myself to a higher standard. Just what the be the best I can for my teammates.” The 22-year-old Dumba tallied an assist in the Leafs game and followed that up with a solid performance against New Jersey last night, finishing with four shot attempts and five hits, according to Russo. Dumba was moved up to the top pairing to play with Ryan Suter since Jared Spurgeon – more on him in a bit – sat out with an upper-body-injury.
- Through five games this season, six-year veteran winger Nino Niederreiter is averaging just 12:18 of ice time per game. That’s down 1 1/2 minutes off his average from 2015-16. The diminished ice time might be a factor in Niederreiter’s sluggish start – two points, both assists – but as Russo writes, Boudreau hasn’t seen enough from Niederreiter to award him additional ice time: “Not enough. Not enough. Granted he hasn’t played a lot of minutes, probably averaged 10 ½ minutes, 11 minutes a game. He’s a big, strong guy with a good shot. He’s got to get more.” When asked whether moving him up in the lineup would spark the Swiss left-wing, the coach said: “I don’t think you get anything for free in this league. Hopefully he’ll earn them. I thought he was better last night than he was the previous night, which is good. So he might get a few more minutes tonight.” Niederreiter has posted back-to-back campaigns of 20 or more goals and has averaged 1.9 shots-per-game over the last two years. The Wild need Niederreiter to be better though the usual disclaimer about small-sample sizes applies here.
- As noted above, Jared Spurgeon missed Saturday’s game with the Devils due to an upper-body-injury he originally suffered Thursday when Matt Martin of the Leafs crunched the Wild defender against the boards. As Russo indicates, Spurgeon will miss his second consecutive game tonight and there doesn’t appear to be a timetable for his return.
- Erik Haula, like Spurgeon, is expected to be held out of the lineup tonight. According to Russo, Haula has been wearing a walking boot since the home opener though last night was the first time the injury has kept him out of the lineup. Russo considers a potential lengthy absence of Haula “a significant loss for the Wild.”
- Finally, free agent addition Chris Stewart, who inked a two-year pact with the Wild over the summer, is off to a slow start despite recording three points in five games. The big winger was signed to add physicality and some scoring punch to the club’s bottom-six. However, Stewart has just two hits and three shots on goal while averaging better than 13 minutes per contest. During a career which has spanned 524 regular season games, Stewart has averaged 1.25 hits and more than two shots per game, numbers which suggest the big winger does in fact have more to offer the Wild on the ice.