The Minnesota Wild are welcoming back one of their players for the last of a four-game set with the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Thursday night.
However, it’s not clear if they will get two other players back for the game.
Forward Kevin Fiala is set to return after serving a three-game suspension for his hit on Matt Roy of the Los Angeles Kings. Minnesota went 1-2 against Colorado in the three games he missed and could earn a split of the rare four-game, playoff-like set up.
One thing is for certain, he is ready to get back on the ice with his teammates.
“I’ve missed the game a lot. Well-rested,” Fiala told The Athletic on Wednesday. “My legs are going to be hopefully very, very (energetic). I’ve missed the guys. Even though I’m still a part of the team, it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. I don’t go into battles with my teammates. I really missed that.”
The Wild’s offense has sputtered in the two losses to Colorado, scoring just one goal in each game around a 4-3 overtime win Sunday in Minnesota. The Wild haven’t had Marcus Johansson the past two games and defenseman Matt Dumba was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury.
The depleted blue line took another hit when Jared Spurgeon left Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury and didn’t play in the third period. Coach Dean Evason was elusive when asked about Spurgeon’s status for Thursday.
“Not ruled in, not ruled out,” he said Wednesday.
The Avalanche know the status of their injured players: None of them will play Thursday. The biggest loss so far has been Nathan MacKinnon, the team’s leading scorer and superstar. He left Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury and Tuesday coach Jared Bednar said he is “week to week.”
The good news is defenseman Devon Toews, who has missed three games after taking a puck to the foot against San Jose, may be back within the next 10 days.
With several top-tier guys sidelined, it has fallen to role players to step up and they did in the 2-1 win on Tuesday. Logan O’Connor and Valeri Nichushkin scored the goals, and goaltender Philipp Grubauer made it stand up.
O’Connor is embracing the chance to play a bigger part in Colorado’s success and knows the role of the fourth line.
“We want to play to our identity, get puck to the net, get traffic, create those in-tight scrums and just try and get greasy ones,” he said after scoring his second goal of the season on Tuesday night. “That’s what fourth lines have to do, and we have to continue to do that going forward.”
Grubauer will likely start in goal again and J.T. Compher will continue to center the top line in MacKinnon’s absence.
“There’s extra ice time that’s getting distributed with the guys that we have out of the lineup, and I think some of those guys are eager to prove they deserve more ice time and they’re making the decisions tough,” Bednar said after Tuesday’s game. “Minutes are up for grabs on a nightly basis and I thought the bottom six guys did a great job.”
–Field Level Media