UPDATE: The team has confirmed the speculation, but things are in fact worse than anticipated. Coyle suffered a right fibula fracture, for which he underwent surgery today. His time frame is actually six-to-eight weeks, longer than estimated by Russo, and he has been placed on long-term injured reserve. The Wild needed that space, but it’s not quite over yet. Niederreiter too has been placed on IR, as he in fact did suffer a high ankle sprain, which was not expected, and will be out a minimum of three weeks. High ankle sprains can often be month-to-month injuries depending on the severity, so Niederreiter’s status will be worth constant monitoring. With now two roster spots freed up, Minnesota will be able to field a nearly-normal lineup tomorrow and in the near future, but at a steep cost. Finally, Foligno’s facial fracture is confirmed and he will miss a minimum of a week after undergoing facial reconstructive surgery tomorrow. It’s a dark day for Wild fans…
3:00PM: When the Minnesota Wild recalled first-year pro Luke Kunin from their AHL affiliate in Iowa today, it was clear that the injuries suffered in last night’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks were potentially more serious than originally believed. The Wild were already without Mikael Granlund (ankle) and Zach Parise (back) heading into the contest, but had been making due with their deep veteran lineup. That was before disaster struck on Thursday, as Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Marcus Foligno joined their teammates on the injury report by the end of the night.
Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required) was given some early injury updates that range in their severity. It is believed that Niederreiter only sustained a sprained ankle, which Russo specifically differentiated from the feared high ankle sprain, and may even be ready to go for Saturday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Foligno suffered what looked to be a broken cheekbone courtesy of a haymaker from John Hayden after the pair dropped the gloves. A facial injury, while painful, does not limit Foligno’s playing ability, but will almost certainly keep him out of the lineup for a week or so. Coyle is likely the worst case of the three; early indications are that a Jared Spurgeon slap shot may have fractured his fibula or tibia a.k.a a broken leg. If that is the case, Russo states that it is a four-to-six week recovery and Coyle will land on the injured reserve.
As bad as that sounds, an IR-worthy injury may be exactly what the Wild need right now. If all five of Coyle, Niederreiter, Foligno, Parise, and Granlund cannot play tomorrow – a distinct possibility – the Wild will be left with just nine forwards for the game. And that is including Kunin. Defenseman Mike Reilly, who was sent down today for Kunin, is one of only two waiver-exempt players on the team, the other being forward Joel Eriksson Ek, which of course is no help. Even if the Wild could move another defenseman or goalie to the minors for a forward, they wouldn’t; they have only two goalies and six defenseman on the roster too. So, if Coyle could be placed on IR, that would at least open up another roster spot to bring the healthy forward count to ten.
No official word has come in on the statuses of the three players injured last night, with only Niederreiter lookly like a remotely possible player for tomorrow night, while last word on Parise and Granlund were expectations they would return late next week. While awaiting more information, coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff must begin preparing to square off with the Blue Jackets with maybe only nine forwards and, given their luck, maybe even less by the end of the game.