Cuma has overcome much to make it to Minny

Published Apr. 5, 2012 3:03 p.m. ET

THURSDAY'S STORY LINE: With Clayton Stoner out with an upper-body injury for Thursday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, defenseman Tyler Cuma will make his long-awaited NHL debut. Cuma, 22, was Minnesota's first-round pick in 2008 and has battled countless injuries and setbacks over the past few seasons, including a torn ACL last season.

The defenseman was written off by many but earned a call-up March 8. Unfortunately, he missed his flight and never met the Wild in Phoenix. On Wednesday, the defenseman got the call around 2:30 p.m. and was able to make his 5 p.m. flight out of Houston.

"I was flying down the highway making sure I didn't miss the flight this time around," he said.
Cuma will be the 46th Wild player to suit up this season and the ninth to make his NHL debut. Cuma, who has nine assists in 68 games with the AHL's Aeros, couldn't be more excited to finally get the chance to show Wild fans what he can do.

"The last couple years, the way things have gone for myself … fortunately this year I have had a full season down in the AHL," he said. "I have played a lot of games in a lot of situations to get me ready for this. I have been waiting for this call for a long time, and I am glad to get this opportunity."

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo believes the adversity Cuma has faced will help him in the long run.

"When things are given to you there is a sense of entitlement," Yeo said. "The harder you have to work toward something, the harder you have to fight for it, the harder you are going to work to hang on to it as well."

Cuma will be paired with Kurtis Foster on Thursday, and he'll keep things simple against the Blackhawks.

"I like shutting down other teams' top lines and just shutting down guys in general," Cuma said. "If I can create a little bit of offense, jumping in the rush and getting my shots through to the net, it is just another bonus."

HE SAID IT: "We are not going out here and try to goon it up, but we play the game better when we play the game with emotion. We have to have a physical edge, but we are not trying to do anything except play hockey out there and play our game and play it our way. I can't imagine they'd be too interested in getting into a real grudge match out there," – Yeo on if there will be carryover from Sunday's physical game in Chicago