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Wilderness Walk: Critical Loss

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Spurgeon is out for the remainder of the regular season, hockey is growing in the Nord, and a (flawed) list of MVP candidates

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild will need Matt Dumba to continue to thrive
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I would argue that for the Minnesota Wild, like many NHL teams, the five most irreplaceable players are the starting goaltender, the top center, the top two defensemen, and the second center. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins until this season, had two starting-caliber goalies, making neither one as critical as Devan Dubnyk is for the Wild. In fact, you could argue that the Penguins don’t win back to back Stanley Cups without those two goaltenders as injuries and breakdowns saw each step up for their team and helped keep them winning. But teams like that are the exception that proves the rule. For the Wild, the loss of Jared Spurgeon for the rest of the regular season (and possibly longer if the Wild make the playoffs) is a huge blow. He’s the seventh overall scorer (one point behind fellow rightie defenseman Matt Dumba), the most disciplined player on the team with only 8 PIM (Zach Parise has 6 PIM but has only played in half the number of games as Spurgeon), and is second on the team in TOI/game (a full minute ahead of Dumba). Dumba will almost certainly slot in beside Ryan Suter, and will probably do a good job of it (he’s been having a great season after all), but it deprives the Wild of serious defensive depth and options. In the coming weeks, the Wild have many tough matchups and Bruce Boudreau will no longer have the option of sending out Spurgeon to safely negate opponents’ top players. It could get rough some games.

Hopefully Dumba continues his strong season. Nate Prosser has been admirable as a waiver pick up. Ryan Murphy has been okay. Jonas Brodin could always swap over to the right side if necessary. This injury doesn’t have to define the Wild’s season, just like the many injuries suffered earlier this season haven’t prevented the Wild from reaching its current perch of third in the Central Division. But it will probably make everyone from General Manager Chuck Fletcher on down wish for a drink or two, hence today’s song choice.

Wild News

Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon expected to miss at least a month
Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon won't play again in the regular season after suffering a partial tear of his right hamstring on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche. He will miss at least a month as he recovers, the team announced on Wednesday afternoon. Spurgeon injured himself after appearing to lose an edge while attempting to play a pass from goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He did the splits going into the boards and stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before retreating to the locker room unable to put any weight on the lower half of his body.

Spurgeon has hamstring tear, will miss remainder of Wild's regular season - StarTribune.com
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin in four weeks, and the lead up to the postseason for the Wild will go on without defenseman Jared Spurgeon

Minnesota Wild Bigger Impact Signing: Zach Parise or Ryan Suter
The signings of Suter & Parise to 13-year, $98 million contracts changed the culture of the Minnesota Wild. We're halfway through their contracts and no Stanley Cup, not even a Western Conference Finals appearance. With so much salary cap tied into these two players, is one of the players outperforming the other?

On Frozen Pond

Minnesota Hockey: Casey Mittelstadt Named to Big Ten All-Freshman Team - The Daily Gopher
Minnesota did not take home a lot of Big Ten awards

Hockey future looks good as youth participation growing in ND, Minnesota | Duluth News Tribune

Off the Trail

Power Rankings: Predators' excellence sets the stage for first division title | The Hockey News
The Predators came out flying against the Jets, setting franchise records with two quick goals on one penalty kill, and the win locked Nashville into top spot on the Power Rankings for a third straight week.

The MVP crowd: Top 10 candidates for the Hart Trophy | The Hockey News
Glaring omission here. (Hint: it rhymes with Beric Call)

The NHL's Top 10 Snipers
We dig deep into the numbers to compile the NHL's Top 10 Snipers in the game today. The list has a heavily weighted emphasis on the past three seasons.

Fuhr, Dafoe provide old-school goalie perspective on NHL interference - Sportsnet.ca
Grant Fuhr and Byron Dafoe respond to Darren Millard's take on the goaltender interference penalty that occurred between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, in which Brian Dumoulin was awarded a two minute penalty.