Boudreau: 'We've got to suck it up' as Wild lose Dumba to injury
ST. PAUL - One star up, another one down.
Just as the Minnesota Wild gets back their captain and versatile center Mikko Koivu from the injured list, it was revealed Monday that defenseman Matt Dumba will be out for at least a week with an undisclosed upper body injury.
It’s a big blow to the blue line. Dumba leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals this season. He munches big minutes against opposing forwards alongside Ryan Suter. Not to mention the rocket launcher Dumba has on the power play.
“He’s a good player,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But I look around the league and see teams with a lot of good players out right now. It’s a question of us. If he’s going to be out for a little bit, we’ve got to suck it up and play better.”
Dumba left Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames after the first period, leaving the Wild with only five defensemen for the majority of the game. He got into a fight with Matthew Tkachuk only 40 seconds into the match after the Flames forward targeted Dumba for retribution from Dumba’s open ice check Dec. 6 on Mikael Backlund, who was concussed.
Boudreau demurred when asked whether Dumba was hurt during the fight but hinted that was the case.
“I always feel for guys when they get hurt, especially when they’re trying to protect our team,” Boudreau said.
The Wild do not plan to recall a defenseman from their American Hockey League team in Iowa, not yet anyway with Nate Prosser able to replace Dumba in the lineup. Jonas Brodin will take Dumba’s place on the power play while veteran Greg Pateryn is ticketed to absorb additional minutes paired with Brodin.
“I think he’s going to do a good job,” Boudreau said of Pateryn. “Anybody that is worth anything, when you give them more responsibility … they want to play. I’ve got to believe he’s going to elevate his game.”
Dumba was on pace for 30 goals and 55 points.
“He’s a tough guy to replace offensively and defensively,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon. “Such a good skater and able to get up on the rush. Just his shot on the power play, it’s tough to bring something that can replace that. He’s obviously going to be missed for however long he’s out.”
Meanwhile, Boudreau shuffled his forward lines Monday at Tria Rink as the Wild prepare for Koivu to return Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks at Xcel Energy Center after missing four games with a left leg injury.
Instead of being sent back down to Iowa, second-year right winger Luke Kunin joined Jason Zucker on Koivu’s line. It is a big opportunity for Kunin, 21, who opened the season in the minors after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“He’s making young mistakes, but at the same time I really liked his speed,” said Boudreau. “I like the opportunities that he could get. I still have the memories of last year and how he looked the first 15 games, how he did. We’re going to give him a chance. Here’s a young guy who’s playing with some pretty good hockey players, so it’s a chance for him to show what he’s got.”
Jordan Greenway, another 21-year-old winger, skated alongside playmakers Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund. Boudreau left intact the Zach Parise-Charlie Coyle-Nino Niederreiter line, which has accounted for seven goals and 14 points in three-plus games. The fourth line is occupied by Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek and Eric Fehr.
“I just think we need more balance,” Boudreau said. “I thought the combination of Coyle, Niederreiter and Parise looked good that last three games. I thought Greenway looked good on the line there. Now you can maybe get some balanced scoring as a unit.”