Just as he was about to return from injury, Joel Eriksson Ek will have to enter isolation. Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason told reporters including Sarah McLellan of the Star-Tribune that Eriksson Ek has tested positive for coronavirus and will not play for the team tomorrow against the Anaheim Ducks. Victor Rask will take his place in the lineup, one that he hasn’t been able to fill since before Christmas.
Eriksson Ek last played on December 20, seeing just eight minutes before leaving with an upper-body injury. After missing his chance at an outdoor game and the Winter Classic, he was set to return for the Wild tomorrow night. That will have to wait, as a confirmed positive result will not only keep him out for tomorrow but also Monday’s matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, a key test in the Central Division race.
Signed to a massive eight-year, $42MM deal last summer, Eriksson Ek has finally started to show why the Wild were so excited to select him 20th overall in 2015. The two-way center had 19 goals and 30 points in 56 games last season and has come back at an even better pace this time around. In 30 games this year he has 11 goals and 20 points while posting the best possession statistics of his career. Those impressive underlying numbers are even with some heavy defensive deployment, as Eriksson Ek’s biggest value comes through in his own end. He finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting a year ago and will likely continue to be in the running for the award in the years to come.
Unfortunately, that play will have to wait at least a few more days because of this positive test. He’ll enter the protocol and hope to test out before the team’s January 21 game against the Chicago Blackhawks.