The Minnesota Wild will be without Jon Merrill and Nico Sturm for the next few days after they were placed in the COVID protocol. Both players missed practice today, though their status moving forward was not confirmed. If they are a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, they’ll be held out for the normal minimum of five days, meaning they would not be available for at least the next two games.
The loss of Merrill from the lineup may not be felt as strongly as one might think, as the Wild had Jonas Brodin back at practice today. The veteran defenseman hasn’t played since January 6 but is now medically cleared to return and is a possible option for Friday in New York. Brodin told reporters including Michael Russo of The Athletic that he has been skating on his own and believes his conditioning level is in good shape.
Sturm’s absence comes at a disappointing time, given how well he played in Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. The 26-year-old scored a goal and registered three points in just under 13 minutes of action, a little more than his season average. He now has seven goals and 15 points on the season, close to matching the 17-point rookie season he had in 2020-21.
For Minnesota, who have won three straight, getting Brodin back is key if the team is going to make a second-half run for a Central Division playoff spot. They now sit in fourth, but just four points behind the second-place Nashville Predators with six games in hand. While the Colorado Avalanche will be a difficult train to catch, the Wild should be considered a real contender in the Western Conference and a team to watch as the trade deadline approaches.