Minnesota Wild: Reintegrating the Skating Wounded


Jan 17, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke (24) carries the puck into the Coyote

When I played football in high school, my coaches referred to the players who were out with injuries as the walking wounded. I was fortunate enough to avoid the M.A.S.H. unit in my time at Duluth East. I was also unfortunate enough to play receiver on a power running team but hey, at least I was healthy and playing.

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The phrase “walking wounded” is derived from war and refers to combatants who are injured but not to the point of being incapacitated, therefore making them a lower priority than those who are clinging to life. The term was used by my coaches to say that, yes those guys still matter but we have to concentrate on the guys on the field as opposed to those in the ice tub. In order to be successful, energy must be concentrated on those who are available to help.

This all brings us to the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are red-hot, experiencing the best extended run in franchise history. Devan Dubnyk is having his name floated as a candidate for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies. According to the website Sports Club Stats, the Wild now have a 99.8 percent chance to make the playoffs after being left for dead in January. Life is good.

Despite the great play, the Wild have also been missing a lot of guys due to injury for the past several weeks. Matt Cooke, Nate Prosser, Ryan Carter and others are all back at practice. It is making for a pretty crowded sheet of ice, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo pointed out:

During practice you can have as many guys on the ice as you want but games are a different story. The question is, who will be left out? According to Russo, Erik Haula and Sean Bergenheim may be the odd men out, at least for a while. From his story:

"Ryan Carter returned Saturday, Jordan Schroeder is playing well after being scratched in eight consecutive games and Kyle Brodziak is set to return from a neck injury. That means Erik Haula was bumped to the fifth line with Cooke, back from sports hernia surgery, and Sean Bergenheim.Haula is in danger of being a healthy scratch for the first since Jan. 29."

Bergenheim has struggled since his acquisition and Haula does not play special teams, so that does not come as a huge surprise. Meanwhile, Coach Mike Yeo was quoted as saying Justin Fontaine is locked into the line-up:

"“I look at a guy like Fonzie, and there’s no reason why he should be looking over his shoulder,” Yeo said."

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As Russo noted, Fontaine has scored 16 points in the past 22 games. It would be crazy to take someone that hot out of the line-up. It figures that as the playoffs start up that guys may get banged up and the lines may need to be shuffled. Yeo now has a plethora of options. While it might hurt some people’s playing time, it is a good situation for the coach to be in, as Nick recently pointed out. If the Wild’s biggest “problem” heading into the postseason is having too many good players, that sounds just fine to me.

Next: Wild Have Playoff Spot Almost Locked Up