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On verge of return, Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek is out again

He tested positive for COVID on Thursday morning before an optional practice at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Seattle Kraken
Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) pases the puck as Seattle Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn (29) defends during the first period of a Nov. 13, 2021, game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
Stephen Brashear / USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL — After being out of action for nearly a month with an upper-body injury, top center Joel Eriksson Ek was supposed to make his triumphant return to the Minnesota Wild lineup in Friday night’s game against Anaheim at Xcel Energy Center.

Those plans were delayed on Thursday when Eriksson Ek tested positive for COVID before an optional morning practice at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul. He definitely won’t play against the Ducks, according to coach Dean Evason, and there’s a chance he could miss Monday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

“I’m sure it’s real disappointing for him,” Evason said. “It’s disappointing for all of us. He’s practiced real well all week and looked good. His progression has been great and then this happens. But it happened. He will heal up completely and he will be ready to go when he’s cleared to get back.”

In place of Eriksson Ek, who returned to practice this week for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury during a Dec. 20 game at Dallas, the Wild will turn to veteran center Victor Rask. He was put on waivers last week, then almost immediately thrust back in the lineup due to injuries.

While the Wild are certainly disappointed that Eriksson Ek won’t be in the lineup, they have gotten used to dealing with this type of adversity over the past month.

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They are currently without captain Jared Spurgeon (lower body), star defenseman Jonas Brodin (upper body), No. 1 goaltender Cam Talbot (lower body) and depth winger Nick Bjugstad (upper body) due to injuries and have new players entering COVID protocol seemingly every day.

“We have been through it so much now,” Evason said. “There might have been a little more frustration earlier and whatever with different people. But there’s nothing we can do, right? It’s just like ,’OK.’ Nobody gets upset anymore. It’s just reality.”

The good news for the Wild is they are still in line to get get star winger Kirill Kaprizov back this weekend. Plus, wingers Jordan Greenway and Brandon Duhaime will return after missing the past couple of games while in COVID protocol.

“That’s great, obviously,” Evason said. “We’ve had a couple of real good days of practice. I think they said we had 14 guys on the ice today (for an optional practice), so another little skate and then we get to play a hockey game tomorrow night. We’re excited about that.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILDHOCKEY
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