The Minnesota Wild were cruising along with no recent injury concerns and feeling good after battling through some major problems earlier in the season — and then they got hit by a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday where they lost multiple players.
Defenseman Jon Merrill is out with a significant injury, as he did not join the team on the current four-game road trip, and rookie sensation Matt Boldy will miss at least the next two games, according to head coach Dean Evason.
While this injury snafu is the largest Minnesota have had to deal with in a while, their added depth prior to the trade deadline last month and existing players can easily carry them through.
“We feel that that’s a strength of ours,” Evason said about their depth at every position, prior to Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He then went on to compare the two opponents and will fully embrace the test against a similarly structured lineup.
“The hockey club here, it’s the same thing,” he said. “They got four lines that they play and six [defensemen], so it’ll be good for us to — you know, we talked about it a few games ago, to roll our lines here on the road. We feel very comfortable with anybody playing against anybody. We have bodies here, obviously we sent Dewar down, so we don’t have an extra forward now, but we’ve always felt very good about the people that we have here; feel comfortable with putting them in and Bjugy is that guy, and obviously Goligoski is as well.”
The Wild did send Connor Dewar down to AHL Iowa before they headed out on the road, but as Evason mentioned, players like Nick Bjugstad (who has been a healthy scratch for the majority of the recent stretch of games) and Alex Goligoski (who has needed some time off for maintenance reasons) provide Minnesota with enough firepower from the bottom of the lineup to overcome some more prominent absences.
And one player that is getting promoted and a better look on Saturday against the Hurricanes is newcomer Tyson Jost. The 24-year-old forward will be slotted in on a line with Frederick Gaudreau and Kevin Fiala, replacing Boldy in that trio.
“In Colorado he’s played a lot of left wing; we like him at center, but we love the versatility,” Evason said of Jost. “We think his speed is certainly an asset, something that can provide us with something up front — that’s how we like to play, getting up the ice and aggressive. He’s been getting better and better each and every game, lots of scoring chances from that line, so hopefully he can continue to create with Gaudreau and Kevin.”
Jost has turned it up recently. After a couple feeling-out games since being acquired by the Wild, the hard-working forward has put in a few good performances. While averaging around 11 minutes per game, Jost was setting up teammates for enough scoring chances at the front of the net but you can visibly see that sometimes, there just isn’t enough skill out there with him to finish said chances. Boldy’s absence might be the perfect opportunity to see if Fiala can establish chemistry with yet another forward that likes the puck on his stick. Just another dynamic to have in Evason’s toolbox of line combinations.