Minnesota has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with Swedish forward Joel Eriksson Ek, the 20th overall pick at this year’s draft.\
“We’re excited to officially have Joel under contract,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said in a release. “He’s a top young player with an exciting package of size, skill, hockey sense and character. We are committed to working with him in the development process and look forward to seeing him in a Wild uniform in the near future.”
Per the Star-Tribune, Eriksson Ek will return to Sweden next year and play with SHL Farjestad (he’s under contract for the next two years). That he’s headed back home isn’t much of a surprise; Eriksson Ek split last season between Farjestad’s senior and junior teams and only turned 18 in January.
What’s more, there aren’t a ton of roster spots available at forward in Minnesota.
An overage of bodies saw the team cut ties with the likes of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Chris Stewart this summer, and it’s expected GM Chuck Fletcher will use the organization’s internal options (Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, etc.) to fill the few spaces available.
Chris Stewart will not play tonight in St. Paul. The Minnesota Wild forward is out with an upper-body injury. His status is reportedly “day-to-day.”
Stewart could be replaced by Jordan Schroeder, who was skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter this morning, but coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t confirm that.
Schroeder appeared in one playoff game versus the St. Louis Blues, but otherwise has not played this postseason.
The Wild trail their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-0.
The Minnesota Wild suffered one of the worst playoff losses in franchise history on Wednesday night — a 6-1 shellacking at home against St. Louis — and the day after, head coach Mike Yeo did a little posturing.
“There’s still pressure on them,” Yeo said Thursday, per the Pioneer Press. “They think that they’re much better than us, and it’s our job to prove we’re up at that level.”
As for last night?
“It’s not like we played our best hockey and came up short,” he explained.
That message stayed consistent with comments made in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 (basically, “we stunk, let’s move on.”) Zach Parise said his team was “brutal” and Yeo followed suit today, saying Minnesota has plenty more to give — which, apparently, will include a new lineup look for Game 5.
There’s no shortage of candidates to come out after Game 4. Sean Bergenheim played a team-low 10:11 and finished minus-2 on the night, and has been parked in the press box already this postseason. Veteran d-man Jordan Leopold had the fewest minutes among all blueliners and finished minus-3, and with the wealth of options Yeo has at his disposal — Matt Cooke, Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser all sat last game — there are plenty of new looks he could throw at St. Louis.
Related: Shattenkirk lighting it up as Blues play ‘our game’
After a 4-1 loss on Saturday, the Wild are switching things up for tonight’s Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series against the Blues.
Sean Bergenheim, acquired at the trade deadline, will draw back in with Justin Fontaine after both dressed for Game 1 and sat Game 2. They’ll suit up at the expense of Matt Cooke and Jordan Schroeder; the former played just 10:27 on Saturday while the latter finished minus-1 in 8:50 TOI.
“At home here, we know the crowd’s going to be buzzing,” head coach Mike Yeo explained. “We can get in there and bump them a little bit, but to make that happen we need to execute getting up the ice as well.
“That’s where a guy like [Fontaine] comes into play. He’s [also] very quietly become one of our top penalty killers.”
With these moves, it means another seat in the press box for last year’s surprise playoff performer, Erik Haula. After scoring four goals and seven points in 13 games last spring, big things were expected of the Finnish speedster but he struggled during the regular season and has been parked upstairs for the entire Blues series.
“This is not about beating down [Haula],” Yeo explained. “It’s been a trying year for him.”
The Minnesota Wild could be without forward Nino Niederreiter tonight when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
Niederreiter left Monday night’s 2-0 loss against the Winnipeg Jets late in the third period after taking a Matt Dumba shot off his left foot.
Wild coach Mike Yeo did not have an update on Niederreiter postgame.
Matt Cooke is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing 30 games recovering from sports hernia surgery and Jordan Schroeder is another option if Niederreiter is unable to go in Chicago.
Niederreiter has 24 goals and 37 points in 78 games this season.
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