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Wild send talented rookie Eriksson Ek back to Sweden

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On paper, Joel Eriksson Ek made a pretty good case for sticking in the NHL — two goals and five points through his first nine games — but on Thursday, Minnesota opted to return its prized prospect to his native Sweden, where he’ll suit up for Farjestad.

Eriksson Ek, 19, was the club’s first-round pick (20th overall) at the 2015 draft. He cracked the opening night roster after a strong exhibition showing and, at times, showed well in the early parts of the season, though his ice time had decreased recently.

He was getting fourth-line minutes before getting dropped from the lineup completely last week, sitting as a healthy scratch.

Still, Minnesota has no regrets about giving Eriksson Ek a look.

“This experience has really helped him,” GM Chuck Fletcher said earlier this week, per the Star-Tribune. “The thing we have to be careful of is when do we need to make sure he’s in a stable environment where he can play consistently big minutes?

“That’s what we’re weighing because we also want to make sure we protect our hockey club in the short term.”

It’s safe to say the Wild envision Eriksson Ek as a top-six forward, and the opportunities to play in the top six just weren’t there right now. Zach Parise recently returned from injury, as did Erik Haula — a versatile guy that can play up and down the lineup.


Helm out at least six weeks with dislocated shoulder

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Earlier today, we passed along word that Detroit forward Darren Helm underwent an MRI for an upper-body injury today, and that the Wings weren’t optimistic about how it’d turn out.

Turns out that lack of optimism was well founded.

Helm will be out at least the next six weeks with a separated shoulder, the club announced. The injury occurred during last night’s 4-3 loss to the Lightning, and will sideline him through the end of December.

Looking at Detroit’s schedule, Helm missing the next 20 games is a safe estimate.

It’s a big blow for the Red Wings. The club is already without the services of Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou — the latter is still two weeks away, head coach Jeff Blashill said today — and Helm brings several things to the table.

A speed guy that can play down the middle or on the wing, he had seven points through 11 games this season, sitting tied for second on the team in goals. Helm also averages over 15 minutes a night, and is employed by Blashill in a number of different situations.


Goalie nods: Smith makes first start for Coyotes in nearly a month


The Coyotes will welcome back their No. 1 netminder tonight when they host Calgary, as Mike Smith will make his first start since Oct. 18.

Smith, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, stopped 54 of 60 shots before getting hurt — for a .900 save percentage. While those numbers aren’t great, they did come in a small sample size, and it was clear the Coyotes struggled without their veteran presence in goal.

Arizona went 4-8-0 while Smith was out, relying largely on Louis Domingue over that span.

Smith’s return isn’t the only big storyline, however.

For the first time this season, Calgary will start Chad Johnson on back-to-back nights. Johnson is coming off a 27-save shutout win over Minnesota on Tuesday, his second strong effort of the month (back on Nov. 3, he stopped 26 shots in a 3-2 win over the Sharks.)

Given the Flames are desperate for wins and just suffered a major blow with the Johnny Gaudreau injury, head coach Glen Gulutzan seems to be in “play whoever gives us the best chance to win” mode.

That strategy, at least for tonight, comes at the expense of No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, who hasn’t played since allowing four goals on 28 shots in a loss to the Rangers on Saturday.


— Light night on the NHL schedule, with just one other game: In Washington, we’ll get a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff series as Matt Murray and the visiting Penguins take on Braden Holtby and the Caps. Murray has been outstanding since returning from a broken hand, going 4-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .961 save percentage.

Ott avoids supplemental discipline for Paquette hit


Detroit forward Steve Ott won’t face a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety after drilling Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette on Tuesday night, a league spokesman confirmed.

Ott tagged Paquette behind the Lightning goal midway through the second period, but wasn’t penalized on the play. He did end up in the sin bin, though, after Brian Boyle made a beeline for Ott and and the two fought in response.

Paquette left the game momentarily, but did return to finish with just under 10 minutes of ice time.


No hearing for Morrissey after big Hinostroza hit

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Winnipeg d-man Josh Morrissey won’t face supplemental discipline for his big hit on Chicago’s Vinnie Hinostroza, per the Chicago Tribune.

Morrissey caught the ‘Hawks rookie in the first period of Winnipeg’s eventual 4-0 victory, knocking Hinostroza from the game.

Morrissey received a two-minute charging minor on the play:

Hinostroza suffered an upper-body injury but, per head coach Joel Quenneville, was “all right” following the contest. Quenneville did add that he’d know more today, once Hinostroza underwent further evaluation.