Spurgeon returns with a flourish for Wild in victory
FEB 05, 2014 12:38a ET
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- While the Minnesota Wild played without Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and No. 1 goaltender Josh Harding, one player's absence didn't register the same concern outside of Minnesota's locker room.
The Wild knew what they were missing without Jared Spurgeon, left to rehabilitate his injured foot in relative quiet. Spurgeon showed everyone what was missing in his return on Tuesday night.
Spurgeon had the primary assists on Minnesota's two goals in a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning and skated 21 minutes, 12 seconds after missing 14 games.
"I think it was sort of nice," Spurgeon said of being out at the same time as Parise, Koivu and Harding. "Well, not nice, but not having to answer any questions. It was nice to get back out there, especially before the break. The team's been playing great and I was just trying to get in there and make sure I didn't ruffle any feathers with the chemistry going on."
Spurgeon didn't ruffle any feathers. He made a big play on the Wild's game-winning goal and helped fill in after Marco Scandella was lost to an injury two minutes into the game. Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley scored for Minnesota and Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves.
Parise has made a strong return with eight points in six games. Koivu is nearing a return, but isn't expected to return in the Wild's final game before the Olympic break on Thursday.
Spurgeon, who entered Tuesday tied for third on the team with Koivu with an average of 21:24 of ice time per game, had been out since Jan. 2. He was paired back with Scandella to start the game, returning to the pair who were playing well together earlier in the year.
"I think there's lots of adrenaline that helps you," Spurgeon said. "At the start I was a little nervous being off for a month, but they threw me right out there for the opening shift and that helped me really calm down and get my feet wet for that first one."
Scandella only lasted two shifts, though, getting his skate tied up with Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson and going down awkwardly. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Coach Mike Yeo didn't have an update on Scandella's status after the game and said he would know more on Wednesday, calling his availability for Thursday as doubtful.
"Obviously Marco's been a great player for us so you know it's going to be a challenge with him out of the lineup," Yeo said. "But I was confident that our guys were going to be able to respond to that. My biggest thing is just obviously we hope it's nothing long-term. I don't want to sit here and say that we know for sure he'll be out on Thursday but if he is, obviously we've got the break coming up so it'll give him a little extra time to get ready for coming out of it."
The Wild get Spurgeon back, and promptly lose another key defenseman.
"It's funny how that works but hopefully he's not out long," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "I'm not even sure what's wrong with him, but Jared stepped up and played well. It just says a lot about what kind of player he is."
Spurgeon, who had his third multi-point game of the season, took a shot from the circle on a power play in the first period and Niederreiter swept the puck under Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop's glove for a 1-0 lead. Just 34 seconds into the third period, Spurgeon lost the puck in the offensive zone. He turned around quickly and stole the puck back before centering to Heatley, who deflected the it past Bishop.
"I didn't see what happened but he got the puck back and made a great play," Heatley said. "He made two great plays on both goals."
The Wild took their time getting Spurgeon back in the lineup. He had been skating on his own and returned to practice last week. With the prep time, Yeo wasn't surprised in Spurgeon's effectiveness in his return.
"He's such a smart player and we gave him enough time," Yeo said. "I think that a couple extra practices; it was the right decision not to put him in in Calgary. He wasn't quite ready. And obviously he looked good. He's taken really good care of himself while he's been out. To be able to come in and play at the level that he did tonight just shows you how smart of a player he is."
Spurgeon was wearing a skate guard the Wild are hoping players will start using after Parise and Spurgeon both had foot injuries and Koivu had ankle surgery. Spurgeon looked quick in his return with the guard.
"These ones were great," Spurgeon said. "I didn't notice them at all compared to the ones I wore last year. They were a bit bigger and I could feel them when I was turning and stuff like that. But these ones I didn't notice at all."
Everyone noticed Spurgeon on Tuesday.
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