Wild, knock wood, have been remarkably healthy this season
CALGARY, Alberta — Hockey people would rather dump hot coals down their pants than talk about injuries, even when they don’t have any. The latter usually has them looking for a piece of wood to knock.
Still, it bears noting that the Minnesota Wild have remained remarkably healthy more than a quarter into the season. They do not have anybody on injured reserve or listed as day-to-day with any of the maladies that typically sideline players.
Moreover, the Wild have the fewest man-games lost to injury (22) in the NHL. Last year they lost 151 man-games.
Fourth-line winger Matt Hendricks missed 11 games with a lower-body injury, and Zach Parise and Eric Staal each missed one game due to illness. And that is it.
“Honestly, I don’t want to address that,” general manager Paul Fenton said. “We’re good right now.”
Parise was scheduled to play his 900th game Thursday night, Dec. 6, against the Calgary Flames. One thousand games typically garners a player an on-ice ceremony recognizing the lofty milestone. Ryan Suter has played in 1,018 games. Mikko Koivu was 49 shy of 1,000 entering Thursday’s play.
“I just can’t believe that I’ve been playing that long,” Parise said. “But it’s been great. It’s still good. I’ve still got a ways to go.”
Longevity requires hard work, discipline and a certain amount of luck. Parise’s luck was all bad in recent years.
There was a sprained knee followed by back pain that became so severe Parise had to have major surgery to repair a herniated disk. After all that healing, a fractured sternum chased him out of Minnesota’s playoff series against Winnipeg.
Parise, 34, is healthy again and on pace for 39 goals and 69 points, which would be his most productive season in Minnesota since signing in 2012.
“It was a tough couple years; some unlucky things,” he said. “But this year … it’s just been play. There’s still things you have to do maintenance on, as apposed to just trying to catch up. To be on the other side of things, mentally, it’s a really good feeling.”
As for the Wild’s collective health, coach Bruce Boudreau believes they are gripping a golden horseshoe.
“I don’t know what to attribute it to because I’ve never been in this position,” he said. “If I was (still) in Anaheim, they were taping players together just to get on the ice.
“We’ve been — touch wood — fortunate this year. I don’t know what it is. We block as many shots as we’ve always done. We’ve never been a high-volume hitting team. So far it’s just been lucky, I think.”
Backup goaltender Alex Stalock got the start against the Flames, his first in five games. It was his 100th appearance in the NHL, which includes stops in Toronto and San Jose.
Stalock spent seven weeks in the Maple Leafs organization before being waived once and sent to San Jose at the 2016 trade deadline.
His career was in jeopardy as far back as 2011, when he suffered a horrific injury in the minor leagues. A skate sliced the back of his left leg during a game. The nerve damage, surgeries and rehabilitation were serious.
So 100 games might appear to be a throwaway milestone, but not to Stalock.
“It’s very cool, actually,” said the South St. Paul native. “I’m lucky to be playing after some of the things that have happened to me.”
The last Minnesota-born goaltender to play 100 games was Damian Rhodes (St. Paul) in 1996-97 for the Ottawa Senators. The all-time leader in games played by a Minnesotan is Frank Brimsek. The Eveleth native played 514 games from 1938-50, mostly with the Boston Bruins.