Sep 21, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Keith Ballard (2) looks to pass during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Jets 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild's Keith Ballard Out Two Weeks

Well, it’s a good thing Mathew Dumba wasn’t sent back to Red Deer after all. The Minnesota Wild have announced that free agent defensive signing Keith Ballard will be out two weeks with an upper-body injury.

It appears Ballard is “pretty sore” with an upper-body injury unrelated to the concussion-like symptoms he sustained earlier in the season. As such, the team doesn’t look like they want to rush him back into action, especially when you consider how good he can be when he does play. In nine games, the former Golden Gopher defenseman has notched four assists for four points and a plus-6 rating. Unfortunately, he’s not the only Wild blue liner on the shelf.

Clayton Stoner is currently listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury after an awkward collision into the boards in Washington last week. He didn’t skate today, but should join the team for tomorrow’s skate.

In the meantime, Dumba can play with more confidence and surety knowing he’s not likely to go anywhere other than with the team for a while yet. Ideally, the American Hockey League would be the best place for his development right now. However, he’s obviously too young, and the CHL’s agreement with the NHL prohibits him from doing so. That said, there’s no better time for Dumba to prove how important he can be to this team than now.

Stoner is out a few days–Ballard, a few weeks–there are only a few games in between that Dumba can practically be guaranteed to play. He may be getting his full salary, but he can also be sent back at any time. Dumba isn’t out of the woods yet, and his play needs to reflect it.

The recurring theme amongst Minnesota’s defensemen is urgency and making quick, accurate passes and plays at the right times. It’s what causes Ryan Suter to spring Jason Pominville on a breakaway. It’s what constantly keeps the puck moving north into the offensive zone. It’s what has made Minnesota’s blue line so successful this season. And it’s exactly the style of play Dumba needs to mimic to stay important to Minnesota’s success as the season continues.

Some interesting off-day stats:

- Wild winger Justin Fontaine is tied with Boston’s Torey Krug for third in goals scored by rookies with six apiece.

- Second line right winger Jason Pominville is currently tied with Corey Perry and Matt Duchene for fourth in goals scored with 11 on the season.

- No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter leads all NHL skaters in average ice-time with 29:22, a full 1:49 per game more than the nearest skater.

- Top line left winger Zach Parise is currently tied with Matt Moulson and Shane Doan for second in power play goals scored with five.

- Minnesota has the league’s No. 3 ranked power play unit with a 23.9% success rate.

- Conversely, they also hold the No. 24 ranked penalty kill at 78.3%.

- Finally, Josh Harding is still kicking butt, ’nuff said.

Tags: Clayton Stoner Keith Ballard Mathew Dumba Ryan Suter

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