Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ask anyone in the Wild locker room and they will tell you: Defenseman Jared Spurgeon is the NHL’s most underrated player. “I don’t think he gets talked about as much as he should,” goaltender Devan Dubnyk said before the season. “Not that he cares; he couldn’t care less. It’s not what he’s about. To me, he’s one of the best defensemen in the league because he’s fantastic both offensively and defensively.” That was nearly six months ago, and Spurgeon hasn’t done anything to change that sentiment.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo's Sam Reinhart scored the only shootout goal, carrying the Sabres to a 5-4 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark stopped Victor Rask and Jason Zucker in the shootout before Reinhart's shot went off the blocker of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk and trickled in to open the third round. Ullmark then stuffed Zach Parise to end the game but was shaken up when Parise's hip hit his head. With his teammates celebrating, Ullmark immediately left the ice and headed to the dressing room.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It was difficult to hear Casey Mittelstadt talk on Tuesday morning, the words difficult to decipher between the exaggerated Minnesota accent and the sarcastic ‘Go Eagles!’ chants bellowing throughout the Buffalo Sabres locker room. “I think anyone would probably say I’m like the biggest Minnesota kid anyone will ever meet,” Mittelstadt said with a smile. “I get a lot of crap for it. It’s all in good fun, though.”
DALLAS — Eric Fehr still remembers the hit from a few weeks back, which is a good thing considering it rammed his head into the top of the boards. A couple of minutes into a Minnesota Wild contest against the Montreal Canadiens, Fehr played a puck in the neutral zone and was promptly crushed by Kenny Agostino. That sent Fehr crashing headfirst into the dasher and left him bloody as he exited the ice.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kirk Cousins won’t be playing in the Super Bowl this season after falling short of expectations in the first year of his $84 million contract with the Vikings. Still, that didn’t stop the 30-year-old quarterback from making sure someone else will be there to witness the NFL game of the year. As a part of the league’s partnership with United Services Automobile Association (USAA) and the Wounded Warrior Project, Cousins has awarded a military member, and a guest, a once-in-lifetime trip to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
ST. PAUL -- Well, so much for Charlie Coyle finding a new home. Not even 10 days after after talking about how he had grown comfortable playing center for the Wild on a regular basis, Coyle was switched back to wing with the arrival of two-way center Victor Rask. He played alongside Eric Staal and opposite Jordan Greenway during Saturday’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and while he’s pretty much become the team’s version of a nomad, bouncing from place to place, don’t expect Coyle to complain.
ST. PAUL -- Bruce Boudreau could’ve eviscerated his team earlier this week. He had every right to, especially after the Wild put forth a putrid effort in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks, who had lost 12 games in a row heading into that matchup. Instead, for whatever reason, Boudreau chose to stay relatively positive, taking the long view on the season as a whole. The Wild responded with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, Jan. 19, at Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PAUL -- It took some time, but first-year Wild general manager Paul Fenton finally has put his stamp on the organization. Nearly 10 months after taking over for former general manager Chuck Fletcher, Fenton executed his first major move Thursday, Jan. 17, trading 26-year-old winger Nino Niederreiter to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange 25-year-old center Victor Rask.
ST. PAUL -- Pontus Aberg was laying in bed at the St. Paul Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 16, binge watching The O.C. when he found out he had been traded to the team he was mentally preparing to play against a day later. “It was a 30-second phone call saying thanks for the time and what I’ve been doing there,” said Aberg, who played 37 games the Anaheim Ducks before being shipped out of town. “Thankfully I didn’t have to travel that far.” Not at all.
MINNEAPOLIS -- During Tuesday, Jan. 16's brutal 40-point loss to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, the Timberwolves did a lot to prove Jimmy Butler’s point that maybe they do, in fact, bleeping need him. With the kindling already in place, and the relationship ready to go up in flames at a moment’s notice, Butler lit the match in mid-October with his well-documented, profane tirade during a team practice.