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Joel Eriksson Ek leaves game with upper-body injury

The Wild’s top two-way centerman did not return.

Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild might be without yet another key piece as they head into the prolonged holiday break prior to their long awaited participation in the Winter Classic.

Joel Eriksson Ek went down hard to the ice during the second period of Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars. He did not return after leaving the ice, appearing to be experiencing a decent amount of pain.

It was the result of a nasty-looking tangle of limbs that led to Eriksson Ek getting slammed down into the boards by Stars blueliner Jani Hakanpaa.

It definitely does not look good, and if this means that both Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon is out for a significant amount of time — essentially the two-way spine of this entire team — then the Wild might be headed into some weird period of lackluster overall play.

So who takes over Eriksson Ek’s spot? Well, no one can truly replace him but considering that the other center options that aren’t named Ryan Hartman are...Frederick Gaudreau, Victor Rask, and Nico Sturm??? Maybe the Wild will recall a youngster like Connor Dewar to give some substantial minutes to, or, do I dare say Marco Rossi? The 20-year-old Austrian does have 18 points in 18 games in his first taste of North American professional hockey.

We’ll see where this goes.