ST. PAUL (FOX 9) - Matt Dumba is doing his best to keep a positive attitude, but couldn’t hide the frustration while taking to the media Friday for the first time since having pectoral surgery.
The Wild were facing the Flames on Dec. 6 when Dumba delivered a big, but clean hit. Nine days later, he got into a fight with Matthew Tkachuk during the first period. In Tkachuck’s mind, he was defending a teammate. Dumba knows how it works, and wasn’t about to back down.
The fight looked relatively harmless on TV, but one missed punch from Dumba could cost him his season.
“I think a punch that I missed. I built up some anger, had a bunch of stitches in my face and I think he hit those a couple times. It just made me pretty angry and I just threw a wild punch that didn’t connect and that was the case for it,” Dumba said.
He took off his shirt for the training staff, who immediately said it was a “no-go.” Dumba didn’t play the final two periods of that game, and it was soon after revealed he had a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery. He’s expected to miss up to three months.
Up to that point, Dumba was leading NHL defensemen with 12 goals, and had 22 points in 32 games.
“It’s frustrating. I expected it and I can’t really hold any hard feelings for it. I knew I was going to fight that night and it’s nothing I’ve ever shied away from. I guess when I sit back and look at it you can kind of scratch your head and wonder,” Dumba said. “It wasn’t really warranted, a clean hit and nothing from the NHL. No penalty on the play, I got jumped seconds after. Yeah, it is frustrating. Even talking about it right now I get caught up in the emotion of it. Everything about it sucks.”
Dumba was in the Wild locker room Friday sporting a heavy brace that he’s worn since the surgery. He said he has to wear it a few more weeks before getting evaluated by doctors. He didn’t give any reassurance he would play again this season.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said they will let the team trainers decided Dumba’s timeline.
“The player always seems optimistic. They’re always going to say ‘I’ll be ready in two weeks.’ But obviously we’re going to follow the protocol because he’s much too important a player to bring back early,” Boudreau said.
In 16 games without Dumba, the Wild are 6-9-1 but are still currently are Western Conference playoff team. They hold the second Wild Card spot, but are just one point out of the No. 6 spot.
Sensing the Wild might have needed a spark, or as he said to put players “on alert,” General Manager Paul Fenton made trades on consecutive days to bring new players into the locker room. The Wild traded Lakeville native and Gophers star Justin Kloos to Anaheim for center Pontus Aberg. He was in a Twin Cities hotel when he found out, with the Ducks gearing up to face the Wild Thursday night.
Thursday afternoon, the Wild traded fan-favorite Nino Niederreiter to the Carolina Hurricanes for Victor Rask. Niederreiter had nine goals in 46 games this season, while Rask has one goal and five assists in 26 games.
Anaheim jumped on the Wild early Thursday with three goals four minutes apart and never looked back in a 3-0 victory. The win also ended a 12-game losing streak for the Ducks.
The Wild are 5-5 in their last 10 games, but have struggled with consistency and have just 13 goals in their last seven games.
“I think as a team it’s our job to prepare the right way and play the game the right way. We haven’t been able to do that, and it’s up to us to find it,” Mikko Koivu said.
The Wild’s next three opponents, Columbus, Las Vegas and Colorado, are all currently playoff teams.