Wild lose key defenseman Spurgeon for playoff push

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If defenseman Jared Spurgeon plays for the Minnesota Wild again before next season, it probably won’t happen until the playoffs.

The team announced that the important player is expected to miss “a minimum” of four weeks after suffering a partial tear to his right hamstring. The Wild close out their regular season schedule at San Jose on April 7, so if he returns, it would be thanks to an accelerated recovery.

(Pauses for everyone to remember that hockey players beat their recovery windows with regularity.)

Spurgeon, 28, has quickly become one of the team’s most important defensemen. He saw a significant boost in ice time since Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach, as he went from averaging about 22-and-a-half minutes per night to more than 24 minutes per game under Boudreau. This season saw a slight boost to 24:33 per contest, in fact.

(Ryan Suter is the only Wild skater averaging more ice time per game at 26:46.)

Spurgeon looked like he was primed to smash career-bests of 11 goals in 2015-16 and 38 points from 2016-17, as he had nine goals and 37 points in 61 games. Sadly, it’s difficult to imagine him getting a shot at upping those totals now.

Less than a week ago, Boudreau glowed about Spurgeon, stating that he’s liked “absolutely everything” he’s seen from him in 2017-18, as Kayleigh Jackson of the Wild website reported.

“He’s another one of those national treasures that nobody hears about, but you wonder why your team does good and he’s one of the big reasons why,” Boudreau said.

Unfortunately, the team’s already experienced a stretch without Spurgeon:

Luckily, the Wild have a buffer as far as protecting a playoff spot goes, as they’re currently ranked third in the Central Division with 85 points in 70 games. It’s not an enormous margin of error – the Stars and Avalanche are both at 82 points in the Central alone, and Colorado holds a game in hand – so Spurgeon’s injury ups the degree of difficulty considerably.

If Spurgeon heals up by playoff time and the Wild maintain their hold on a West spot, one must also wonder how close he’ll be at full-strength, as hamstring issues can serve as nagging injuries. Even a hampered Spurgeon would probably be worth suiting up, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.