Injuries Force Wild to Lean Heavily on Rookie

Creator: Dan Hamilton | Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild played their last two games at home, and both of them ended in a shootout win. Now that they’re playing a back-to-back on the road, it’s crucial they win in regulation. The Wild have been down two of their best defensemen, and they’ll be without Jonas Brodin for the foreseeable future. He was put on LTIR with an upper-body injury and is expected to be out for 6-8 weeks. 

Jared Spurgeon is listed as day-to-day and was supposed to travel on the two-game road trip. However, he stayed behind in Minnesota, stoking fears that his injury is more severe than previously thought. Head Coach John Hynes said that there was no setback for Spurgeon. It was decided that it was better for him to stay in Minnesota and skate instead of traveling.

In the wake of these absences, all of the other defensemen have had to step up at the risk of burnout. No one has stepped up more than Brock Faber, followed closely by Jake Middleton. They both set career-high TOI and were a great pair despite the excessive ice time. Faber saw 30:08 and then 31:34 TOI. That moves him up for single-game total ice time for a rookie in Wild franchise history. Middleton saw 26:02 (coming in second to his 26:30 TOI in Seattle) and 27:15.

While the jaw-dropping ice time is impressive, it’s important not to burn out the two top defensemen while Spurgeon and Brodin are out indefinitely. With a blue line that is already thin, there aren’t many defensemen in Iowa who could be called up to fill in. Dakota Mermis and Daemon Hunt were recalled last week and they’ve each had one game to fill in on the third pairing. It’s been confirmed that Hunt will be back in the lineup tonight while Mermis will be the healthy scratch along with Vinni Lettieri, who was also recalled from Iowa last week as insurance before the holiday break. 

One nice defensive surprise has been Zach Bogosian. He was out for four games with an upper-body injury and, since coming back, has been a force to be reckoned with. Blocking shot after shot and hitting anything in the opposing team’s jersey, Bogosian has been playing more time than usual. Before his injury, Bogosian’s TOI was somewhere between 11-15 minutes a night. Since he’s been back into the lineup, he’s skated 18:23, 18:13, and 21:28. During these three games, he’s had seven hits and four blocks. After questions surrounding bringing Bogosian in while trading Calen Addison away, Bogosian brings a veteran presence who can step into more ice time if needed without his quality of play suffering. 

So, how much ice time will Faber and Middleton see tonight? It’s expected that they will be heavily leaned on again. Their ice time will also depend on how the third pairing is playing. Jon Merrill has been a staple on the third pairing but has seen diminishing ice time as he’s proven to be not as dependable as the Wild need him to be. Could he end up benched at some point to give way for both call-ups to slide into the lineup? During the past two games that went all the way to a shootout, Merrill only saw 13:37 and 10:06 TOI. 

On the other hand, both call-ups from Iowa have been given larger roles when they’re on the ice. Mermis played against the Calgary Flames last week and played 16:04 minutes compared to Merrill’s 13:37. Even Hunt, who was only playing in his sixth NHL game, played 14:44 compared to Merrill’s 10:06. 

As of now, it appears that the Wild will be going with the same defensive pairings as the past two games during their back-to-back road trip. Faber and Middleton will play the top pair followed by the veteran pairing of Alex Goligoski and Bogosian. The third pairing will end up as Merrill alongside either Mermis or Hunt. It looks like Hunt will play against the Penguins, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mermis draw in against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

There are two big questions going into tonight’s game against the Penguins. What will the ice time look like for both Merrill and Hunt? And will Faber and Middleton set a new career-high TOI for the third game in a row?

PWHL Minnesota is a Mess. Can It Be Saved? Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast

In this episode, Mikki talks about the disgusting state of the PWHL Minnesota team, some other offseason Minnesota Wild news, and comparing Wild players to characters from Phineas and Ferb. Links:Her Wild Side Merch Shop!Ticketmaster Affiliate LinkSocial Media:TwitterInstagramFacebookFor more from us, visit Inside The RinkHow to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR  
  1. PWHL Minnesota is a Mess. Can It Be Saved?
  2. Free Agency and Why Jake Middleton Reminds Me of Binky Barnes
  3. Minnesota Wild Draft Day Overview
  4. The Wild's Goalie Problem, Game 7, and Free Agency Prep
  5. There Is No NHL Offseason This Year

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