TAMPA, Fla. — Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon was not on the ice for Tuesday’s practice and will miss the rest of the week with a lower-body injury. That means he won’t play in Wednesday’s game against the Devils in New Jersey, or Friday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets.
He likely will miss Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Xcel Energy Center, too.
“It’s week-to-week,” coach Dean Evason said Tuesday after a practice at the Tampa Bay Lightining’s facility. “We will wait and evaluate, get home and see our docs. Then we will get a good idea.”
The injury itself came early in Saturday’s loss to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. After sending a puck the length of the ice, Spurgeon immediately left for the locker room and did not return to action. It was an innocuous at first glance and replays don’t give a clear indication of how he got hurt.
Now the Wild must press on without their leader.
“You can’t replace a guy like Spurgey,” goaltender Cam Talbot said. “He does so much for this team both on the ice and off the ice. It’s going to be a committee kind of thing for us. Everyone has to step up. Myself included.”
For the time being, it appears the Wild will stick with the same pairings they used in Sunday’s shootout loss to the Lightning. That game featured the usual pairing of Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, plus Jon Merrill next to Alex Goligoski, and Jordie Benn alongside Dmitry Kulikov.
Though there were some growing pains early on, the Wild started to look more and more comfortable as the game progressed.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Goligoski said. “We have a good veteran group back there, and obviously (prospect Calen Addison) can hop in, too. It’s going to take all of us. Those are tough shoes to fill. Hopefully it won’t be too long and we can get through it while he’s out.”
With a day off in a warm locale, the Wild made the most of their time together. They hung out at the beach on Monday afternoon, then watched the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
“I haven’t seen a beach in a lot of years, so it was nice feeling the sand between my toes,” Nico Sturm said. “You don’t get to do that very often during a hockey season, so when you get the chance to, you’ve got to grab it. Just hanging out with the boys the whole day. You’ve got to take advantage of those days.”
Adding to the fun, the rookies on the roster dressed like pirates for the game between the Buccaneers and the New York Giants.
‘We weren’t even the most dressed-up people there,” Sturm said with a laugh. “I think we fit right in. It was pretty cool.”
Asked if there was any worry the Wild might not be ready for the game against the Devils because of the day off, Evason emphasized that he wasn’t concerned in the slightest.
“We trust our group,” Evason said. “Yeah, sure, we had a day off in Florida. We hope that it was a nice team-building exercise for us. That’s important. That’s important for the mental health to not be around the rink and do some stuff together outside of the rink in nice weather.”
“We don’t worry that we’re not going to be in (the right) mindset,” he added. “We trust that we’re going to do the right things mentally to be prepared to play that game.”
This was always going to be a tough road trip for the Wild. Especially the start of it with a back-to-back against the NHL’s best team (Panthers) and the defending Stanley Cup champions (Lightning).
While the Wild certainly would have liked to win both games, they managed to get a hard-fought point out of the weekend. Thus, they sit 0-1-1 on the road trip heading into New Jersey.
“We need to salvage the road trip here at .500,” goaltender Cam Talbot said. “Obviously, it’s a big two points. We are definitely looking forward to a little redemption game here tomorrow night. We need to bring our A game. It’s going to be another tough test for us.”