Wild prepare for life without Kirill Kaprizov: ‘It’s going to take everyone’
Asked about Kaprizov on the shelf, best bud Mats Zuccarello joked, “It’s not like he’s dying. He’s hurt.”
ST. PAUL — The mood inside the Minnesota Wild locker room at downtown St. Paul’s TRIA Rink on Friday morning was surprisingly upbeat.
You’d never know the Wild had announced Thursday afternoon that superstar Kirill Kaprizov is expected to miss much of the next month with a lower-body injury.
Asked about Kaprizov being on the shelf, best friend Mats Zuccarello joked, “It’s not like he’s dying. He’s hurt.”
“That happens in hockey,” he added. “This time it was him. It is what it is. We have to make the most out of it.”
That’s the only thing the Wild can do right now. They likely won’t have Kaprizov back before the end of the regular season, the hope being that he’ll be ready for the playoffs.
“We can’t really hang our heads,” linemate Ryan Hartman said. “We still have a job to do. Obviously, we want him to be in our lineup. But I think everyone can bear down a little more.”
It looks as if Sam Steel will take Kaprizov’s spot alongside Hartman and opposite Zuccarello. After sitting out as a healthy scratch for a few weeks, Steel played well against the Flames in Calgary last weekend and coaches think he deserves the first crack at sticking on the top line.
If it doesn’t work out, the Wild can make changes on the upcoming road trip during which they face the Sharks in San Jose, the Coyotes in Arizona and the Blues in St. Louis. Puck drop against the Sharks is set for 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Not much we can do about it except move forward,” coach Dean Evason said. “We’re excited about the challenge.”
As for the timeline on Kaprizov’s return, Evason wouldn’t dive into specifics.
“His timeline will be dictated by his healing,” he said. “Whenever someone gets an injury, I know everyone is, like, ‘OK. How long is it? Is it day to day or week to week?’ We don’t know until the healing process starts.”
This is the first time in Kaprizov’s career in the NHL that he’s faced an extended injury absence. In fact, he’s only ever sat out once due to injury, and he returned the following game.
Though this is uncharted territory for the Wild — losing Kaprizov and his 39 goals and 25 assists is a gut punch — they know that with the playoffs set to start in about a month, they have to press on.
“It’s never going to be easy losing our best player,” Zuccarello said. “It’s going to take everyone. It’s got to be a collective effort. We all have the same goal in mind and that’s to win hockey games. We would like to do it with him as a friend and a teammate. As of right now, he can enjoy his three to four weeks off and hopefully be full of energy and ready to go in the playoffs.”
The good news for the Wild is injured players Jonas Brodin, Gustav Nyquist and Brandon Duhaime all skated by themselves Friday morning at TRIA Rink.
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