BUFFALO, N.Y. — The captain is back. The question is, can he right the ship?
Wild captain Jared Spurgeon was set to play against the Sabres on Friday at KeyCenter Arena, his first game since he suffered an upper body injury in an Oct. 5 preseason game in Chicago.
“Are we looking for him to come back and be a savior right away? Of course not,” head coach Dean Evason said before the 6 p.m. CST puck drop. “Everybody’s got to play the right way.”
Spurgeon has been skating for the better part of two weeks, and traveled with the team on this three-game trip through New York in anticipation of getting into at least one game. General manager Bill Guerin said Wednesday that was unlikely to happen, but player, trainers and coaches agreed the veteran defenseman could play on Friday.
He slotted back into a pair with Jake Middleton, who has struggled in his absence — although the team as a whole has struggled in Spurgeon’s absence. They entered the last game of this trip 5-6-2 overall after a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Thursday in New York City.
Like most coaches, Evason won’t use injuries as an excuse. Twenty players suit up for a game and it’s their job to win games. But he acknowledged Friday that Spurgeon was a major loss as the Wild stumbled out of the gate.
“He’s just one of the best defensemen in the world, right?” the coach said. “So, to have him out of our lineup, sure, it’s hurt all areas of our game.”
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