According to the team’s official website, the Minnesota Wild has placed defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Injured Reserve, and has recalled forward Brett Bulmer from Iowa of the American Hockey League.
Spurgeon–already one of Minnesota’s top three defensemen at the age of 24–may be small at 5’9″ and 168-pounds, but he plays larger than he is and has spent considerable time on the Wild’s top defensive pairing with 2013 Norris finalist Ryan Suter. The team didn’t say much about his injury, saying:
He suffered a lower-body injury after blocking a shot on Jan. 2 against the Buffalo Sabres. There is no timetable, but is expected to be out for a few weeks.
What you don’t hear are the audible groans from the ownership, management, coaching staff and the fan base at what comes as just another major blow to the team’s playoff hopes this season. Top line left wing Zach Parise is already out for an undetermined amount of time, same with No. 1 goalie Josh Harding, and there are no doubt other banged up players gritting through the pain for the good of the team.
After losing six straight games, we saw how good the Wild can be on the rush Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres. All three goals came on the northward push, and Jason Zucker’s in particular showed just why fans can’t wait for him to finish developing–no other Wild-drafted youngster has electrified the Xcel Energy Center like he can since the days of Marian Gaborik. But without one of your top defensemen, those rushes may be hard to come by. Spurgeon played 27 minutes and was a plus-3 against the Sabres, not missing a single shift even after blocking the shot that now has him sidelined. In 43 games this season, the former Islander draft pick has scored a goal and 11 assists for 12 points and a plus-6 rating.
With Spurgeon out, Minnesota suddenly finds itself with a very thin defensive corps. Jonas Brodin rejoins Ryan Suter on the top pairing, and Elk River, MN native Nate Prosser breaks into the team’s top-4 as he joins Marco Scandella on the second pairing. Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard round out the defense on the Wild’s bottom pairing. After that, the depth chart has 2007 Nashville first rounder Jonathon Blum next in line with rookie Mathew Dumba currently patrolling Team Canada’s blue line at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
Dumba–Minnesota’s top selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft–has played in 13 games with the Wild this season, collecting a power play goal and an assist for two points, 12 shots and a negative-5 rating. In five games with Canada at the World Juniors, Dumba has notched an assist, 12 shots and a plus-4 rating. Prior to the start of the tournament, it was thought Dumba would be returned to the Western Hockey League to finish out the season and continue his development with the dominating Portland Winterhawks. With Spurgeon out for a few weeks, that could change.
Placing Spurgeon on IR wasn’t the only transaction the Wild made today. With rookie winger Justin Fontaine out after a hard hit in practice, 2010 second round pick Brett Bulmer was recalled by the team to play against a tough Washington Capitals squad tonight.
Bulmer, who plays with a mean streak, will slot into Fontaine’s spot on the third line with Matt Cooke and Charlie Coyle for what looks to be a talented line with good size, physicality and scoring ability…on paper that is. In 24 games with the Iowa Wild this season, Bulmer has scored nine goals and five assists for 12 points and 24 penalty minutes in climbing back into the good graces of the Wild brass. In four games with Minnesota this season, the hulking 6’4″ 212-pound right winger has collected two penalty minutes, six shots and an even plus-minus rating.
In other news, Josh Harding is still out of the lineup with an undisclosed illness, and it appears the Wild are prepared to keep rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper up for a while. If things don’t look to improve soon, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher may be forced to make a move for either a top-6 defenseman or a reliable backup goaltender.
Finally, Minnesota’s top pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Gustav Olofsson, has played a key role in leading Sweden to the World Junior gold medal game. In six games, the Colorado College freshman defenseman has scored a goal and four assists for five points, 10 shots and a plus-7 rating in becoming one of the tournament’s top blue liners. His five points have him tied for second in the tournament in total point scoring by a defenseman. The 6’4″ 191-pound defender was the only NCAA player invited to play for Team Sweden, and has emerged as arguably Minnesota’s best blue line prospect at the moment. This kid is going to be fun to watch.