Preview: Wild vs. Sharks
ST. PAUL — On Monday, the Minnesota Wild got some good news on the injury front as well as bad news.
They will regain the services of captain Mikko Koivu for Tuesday night’s visit from the San Jose Sharks, but will have to do without Matt Dumba this week after he suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Calgary.
The loss of Dumba for the next three games won’t be insignificant at all. He leads all NHL defensemen in goals with 12, putting him on pace for about 30. But Minnesota (17-13-2) at least has a proven option to replace him for the short term.
Veteran Nate Prosser was paired with Nick Seeler at practice Monday and figures to draw into the lineup. Prosser has skated in 341 games during a 10-year NHL career, but just of them have been this season. The Wild simply haven’t needed him, what with their defensemen being productive and healthy.
“I just want to get in and play that game like I can, play hard and like I did last year, just come in and play my game and be steady, be solid and mistake free,” Prosser said. “That’s where I’m at in my career and with this organization, I knew it coming in and I knew it while I was sitting and just skating and working to get into the lineup.”
Koivu missed the last four games after absorbing a knee-to-knee hit from Calgary captain Mark Giordano during the third period of a 2-0 defeat Dec. 6. Koivu considered returning for the Saturday game against the Flames, but the team decided to give him a couple of extra days.
Koivu will skate with veteran Jason Zucker and young center Luke Kunin, who has just 22 games of experience over the last two seasons, including three last week after being recalled from AHL Iowa. Kunin’s speed has impressed coach Bruce Boudreau.
“Here’s a young guy, he’s playing with two pretty good hockey players, so it’s a chance for him to show what he’s got,” Boudreau said of the 21-year old Kunin.
While Minnesota tries to finish its four-game homestand with a 3-1-0 mark, San Jose (18-11-5) aims for a fifth straight win. The Sharks shrugged off a shaky first period from goalie Martin Jones Sunday night in a 7-3 win at Chicago, getting goals from seven different players.
Jones faced four shots and stopped only one in 13:53 of playing time before getting the hook for Aaron Dell after ceding a tie-breaking marker to Brandon Perlini. Dell saved all 16 shots he saw as San Jose took advantage of the concussion suffered by Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford for five unanswered markers in the final two periods.
“That’s one that could have gone off the rails pretty easily,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought we had a lot of composure on the bench … there was a confidence to it. There wasn’t a panic to it, even when we were down.”