UPDATE: The Wild announced that it has recalled Jared Spurgeon from the Houston Aeros, so now we know the identity of the mystery defenseman Richards was talking about. We’ll have to wait until morning skate to see what the blueline for tomorrow night’s game will look like.
Thursday’s late-morning Wild practice was just minutes from ending and reporters were packing up their things and about to walk out of the rink when there was some major drama: Niklas Backstrom grabbing his knee and down on the ice for a minute after being run into on the final drill of the day.
The drill, a one-on-one test where the offensive player tried to beat the skater playing defense from center ice into the zone, had the players along the boards hooting and hollering in delight just seconds before the injury. Then, as Marco Scandella roared into the zone and tried to push trough Greg Zanon on his was to the net, he went hard into Backstrom as both ended up in the back of the net. When the mess finally cleared, Scandella stood over Backstrom as he grabbed his knee and the training staff rushed to the ice.
That was the end of the day for Backstrom, who eventually got up a few minutes later after getting checked by Assistant Athletic Trainer John Worley. The good news is Backstrom skated around the ice on his own power and was seen walking out of the arena like nothing had happened, so he might be just fine. Richards said he was planning on having Backstrom start tomorrow against Nashville but that is obviously now up in the air until he gets the all-clear later today.
As for Scandella, it wasn’t the first time he had gone hard to the net to try to get by the defenseman in the drill, it was just the first time he made contact with the goalie. I didn’t talk to Scandella after practice, but you have to believe he felt horrible and about two inches tall after the collision. Richards only said of Scandella, “That’s how you learn a lot of times.”
In other injury news, Cal Clutterbuck missed practice, which was held at a suburban rink as Xcel Energy Center hosts the Schwan Cup. Richards said Clutterbuck was out for “maintenance” and “he’s got a little, nagging injury right now” but is unsure if he will be in the lineup tomorrow. If he can’t go, Patrick O’Sullivan will get back in a game, but if Clutterbuck does play, Richards is unsure which forward will be scratched.
One thing we do know about tomorrow’s lineup is that it will not include Marek Zidlicky, who sustained a shoulder injury in last night’s win. Richards didn’t have an update on Zidlicky, other than to repeat what he said last night in that Zidlicky will be out for a while. “He’s going to be out for some time,” said Richards. “He won’t be back in the next two weeks, that’s for sure.” Richards usually underestimates when a player might be on the sidelines, so that says something about the severity of Zid’s injury.
Richards talked extensively about how much the team will miss Zidlicky, and how he’s been so good moving the puck around on the back end and breaking it out of the Wild zone this season. The Wild will recall a defenseman this afternoon from Houston and then determine the blueline for tomorrow by looking at who can best fill Zidlicky’s role.
Richards also talked a lot about how good Chuck Kobasew has played lately. “He looks fast, he looks quick,” said Richards. “The other thing I like about him, he plays the game, for the most part, fearlessly. He’s first in the corners knowing that he’s going to get hit, he’s not afraid to go down the walls…it takes courage to go to those areas.”
Don’t forget, it’s an early 5 p.m. start tomorrow for the contest against the Predators at Xcel Energy Center, so you’ll still have time to celebrate New Year’s Eve after you celebrate a Wild win.