The Minnesota Wild’s center depth took a hit on Wednesday, as Joel Eriksson Ek was listed as week to week with a lower-body injury, per Michael Russo of The Athletic. The news is a significant blow to the team’s weakest position and takes the Wild’s best two-way forward out of the lineup longer-term as the playoffs quickly approach. Trade deadline acquisition Oskar Sundqvist is also day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
It wasn’t all bad news, though, as Russo reported that Kirill Kaprizov is set to return to the lineup tomorrow against the St. Louis Blues after missing multiple weeks with a lower-body injury.
Kaprizov has been the Wild’s best skater by a mile again this season, scoring 39 goals and 35 assists in 65 games. His return will be a welcome sight for a team that will struggle to fill the gap left at center by Eriksson Ek’s injury. The Wild managed to stay afloat in his absence, going 7-3-3 in 13 games without their star scorer and recording 3.62 goals per game, well above their season average of 2.9.
The news on Eriksson Ek, however, is concerning for the Wild, as the 26-year-old has been one of the team’s most reliable players this season. He has scored 23 goals and 38 assists in 78 games, logging almost 19 minutes per game in the process of his career offensive year. The Wild have limited options at center without him, though, and pressure will shift back onto last year’s breakout star, Ryan Hartman, down the stretch to carry the weight in the middle of the ice.
Sundqvist’s injury may be less severe than Eriksson Ek’s, but it still leaves the Wild with another hole to fill in their lineup. The Wild acquired Sundqvist in a trade deadline deal with the Detroit Red Wings and has provided solid depth scoring in the bottom six, recording seven points in 15 games with Minnesota.
As Russo notes, the Wild will need to call up a forward ahead of tomorrow’s game from the AHL’s Iowa Wild to ice 12 players at the position. It could be a chance for 21-year-old Marco Rossi, who had one assist in 16 games earlier this season, to get a late-season look in the NHL lineup.