On Wednesday, it was top-four defenseman Filip Hronek; the day before, top-line center Dylan Larkin. Hronek left less than three minutes into the game against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center and the Wings, already without key personnel up front, spent most of the night defending. Taxed and tired, they lost, 4-1.
Rookie Elmer Söderblom, called up earlier in the day after a short stint in the minors, made it interesting when he scored with 1:19 to play in the second period to get the Wings back to a one-goal deficit, but the Wild answered within 16 seconds. Ben Chiarot answered for his teammates when Ryan Reaves kept taking liberties, starting with a hit on Hronek.
The loss left the Wings (13–9–6) on a four-game skid and outscored 12-4 during that span.
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Hronek joins injured list
Hronek headed down the tunnel two shifts into the first period after getting bulldozed by Reaves on open ice. Hronek, who had his head down, was hit in the head by Reaves’ elbow. There was no penalty called by officials on the play, but it’s likely the NHL will review. Regardless, his departure left the already-depleted Wings with a short bench, and a burgeoning list of injured players. They were without Hronek’s partner, Olli Määttä, who has been dealing with a non-COVID illness since Dec. 8. That’s on top of who is missing up front: Larkin (hand), Tyler Bertuzzi (hand), Filip Zadina (lower body), Robby Fabbri (off-season surgery) and Jakub Vrana (players assistance program).
Hellberg got his first start with the Wings since being claimed off waivers in November. Ville Husso needed a spell after starting five of the previous six games, including Tuesday’s in Detroit, and Alex Nedeljkovic has been struggling (after allowing at least four goals in six of eight starts). “This was an opportunity to rest Ville,” coach Derek Lalonde said before the game. “We’re trying to manage how much we use him. He played the last back-to-back. He’s played a lot of hockey lately and with Magnus, he did exactly what we asked of him. He went down on a conditioning stint, which he did not have to, tried to get his game in order because he had not played a lot of hockey, and played well.”
Wild clip Wings
The Wings didn’t allow many Grade-A chances, but the Wild took advantage of a power play to make it 1-0 at 14:37 of the first period, when Frederick Gaudreau took a feed from Sam Steel and fired a wrist shot through traffic. Matt Dumba’s goal, making it 2-0, was more of an eyesore, as he had time and space in the slot to get off a good shot at 8:02 of the second period. Zuccarello managed to score even though he was on his knees and had Chiarot hovering; Zuccarello fired a shot through Chiarot’s legs that beat Hellberg stick side.
Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.