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Wild defenseman Spurgeon matures with quiet consistency

Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon continues to grow. Not literally, however. "I don't see him growing," coach Mike Yeo said with a straight face Saturday before allowing a grin to emerge. "Unfortunately." Spurgeon, who arrived on the Minnesota scene...

Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon continues to grow.

Not literally, however.

"I don't see him growing," coach Mike Yeo said with a straight face Saturday before allowing a grin to emerge. "Unfortunately."

Spurgeon, who arrived on the Minnesota scene at the end of November 2010 looking more like a stick-boy than a potential NHL defenseman, is set to begin his fourth season with the Wild. He has held a spot as a regular since the second half of the 2010-11 campaign.

His mustache might be a bit wispy, but there's a maturity that comes from playing 162 NHL games on the youthful-looking face of the 23-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta.

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And at 5 feet 9, he is the shortest player on the Wild roster.

Nevertheless, he has delivered 12 goals and 38 assists in three-plus seasons and has played well enough to earn power-play time. Those credentials also earned him a three-year contract extension over the summer worth $8 million.

Does all that provide him the comfort level of a veteran?

"A little bit comfortable," he said, "but at the same time, never too comfortable."

Much of the talk surrounding Minnesota's blue line during training camp has focused on veterans Ryan Suter, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner plus potential young regulars such as Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba.

A week ago, Yeo said: "Spurge is Spurge."

That means few mistakes and a quiet consistency that does not attract a lot of attention.

"Just fly under the radar and go out there and do what I do," Spurgeon said before the Wild played host to the Winnipeg Jets in their third exhibition game Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

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Yeo said Spurgeon is a known commodity whose offensive abilities have become more visible each season, a guy who reads the play quicker, handles the puck well and finds open avenues to the net for his shot from the blue line.

"It's these things which have continued to develop, which is great for us," Yeo said.

Spurgeon landed a job with the Wild during his first pro season because of his solid defensive play, but he hasn't stopped working to improve.

"What impressed me is he worked on his shot this summer," Yeo said. "He hasn't gotten comfortable; he has continued to go out and try to become better as a player. Having a heavy, hard shot from the blue line is always nice, but it's useless if you're not getting it through. One thing he does well is he gets it through."

Spurgeon worked on all facets of shooting, he said, particularly a quicker release with more muscle.

Because he sat out the first two Wild exhibitions, he said after the morning skate he was excited about testing it in game conditions against the Jets.

"We'll see how it works tonight," he said.

Spurgeon also focused on his endurance over the summer and arrived at training camp feeling positive about the Wild's chances this season.

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"With the skill that we have and hard work, good things are going to happen," he said.

Atmosphere suggest Jets rivalry in works

Based on Saturday night's 4-3 shootout victory for Minnesota, a rivalry appears to be developing between the new Central Division's Winnipeg Jets and the Wild.

Quite a few Jets fans made their way to downtown St. Paul and often took over the cheering with their "Let's go Jets" efforts.

"It was pretty loud," Wild winger Zach Parise said. "I was surprised there were a lot of Jets fans here. I think as these teams become more familiar with each other, you're going to see a lot of that, fans traveling back and forth. That makes it a fun atmosphere."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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