The Minnesota Wild mostly stood their ground at the trade deadline, opting to use the prospects already in their system to fill offensive gaps, rather than add outsiders. As they head into Tuesday night’s home meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher’s plan to promote from within has taken a significant hit.
On Monday, the Wild announced that prized rookie forward Luke Kunin, just recalled from Minnesota’s AHL team in Iowa, will miss the next seven months after suffering an ACL injury on Sunday. Kunin, who was a star at Wisconsin before the Wild plucked him in the first round of the 2016 draft, had two goals and two assists in 17 games with Minnesota this season.
The bad news comes on the heels of a “back on track” win over Detroit on Sunday that has the Wild’s playoff odds climbing again. After a slow start, they got an emotional jolt when rookie Nick Seeler fought Red Wings enforcer Luke Witkowski in the second period. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau gushed about the lift Seeler’s play, and fists, have given the team.
“I think it’s been great. We needed somebody of that ilk back there that can play, and he can play, too, which is really good,” Boudreau said. “It was a good fight that the guys were on the bench and they were saying, ‘We gotta go now. If we can’t get motivated for this, then we’re in trouble.’ It was a real opportunistic time when I think we were really flat.”
The Hurricanes are hoping for something better than flat on Tuesday, when they begin a three-game road trip with their only visit to the Twin Cities this season. Carolina is coming off a 3-2 home loss to the Jets, but had won two in a row prior to that. Their coach likes what he’s seen from Teuvo Teravainen, with a goal in four consecutive games, and from Brett Skinner, who had six shots versus Winnipeg, lately.
“He had good jump and drew a power play in the O-zone,” Bill Peters said of Skinner’s effort. “I know he had good legs.”
It will be a family reunion of sorts with Wild forward Eric Staal facing his brother Jordan, a Hurricanes forward, for one of two times this season. The Hurricanes won in a shootout on Oct. 7 when they met in Raleigh. The Hurricanes need wins, and some help, if they’re going to make a playoff run.
“It’s playoff-style hockey right now, and we’ve been working hard and battling hard,” Jordan Staal said, admitting they have their hands full going to Minnesota. “They’ve been good, especially in the second half of the year and (Eric) has been playing great for them, which is good to see. Hopefully he doesn’t play that way against us and we can surprise them and sneak out of there with two points.”
It’s also that rare week every season where the Wild at the secondary tenants at Xcel Energy Center with the puck dropping on Minnesota’s legendary State High School Hockey Tournament starting on Wednesday.
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