Wild: Was Joel Eriksson Ek trying to play Game 3 the right call?
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Joel Eriksson Ek’s run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs lasted all of 19 seconds, and now the Minnesota Wild’s talented center is focusing on an offseason of rehab and recovery following surgery for a fractured fibula.
The situation, for some, begs the question of should Eriksson Ek have been cleared to play at all? He suffered a lower body injury blocking a shot during the Wild’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Eriksson Ek finished fourth on the team in points in the regular season with 61 in 78 games, behind only Matt Boldy, Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov.
Eriksson Ek missed Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Dallas Stars. He participated in morning skate ahead of Game 3 and felt good. He tried to give it a go, but left the ice after his first shift and never returned.
Eriksson Ek confirmed on Monday he tried to play through a broken leg. He had surgery last week for a fractured fibula, and was in a walking boot for last Friday’s season-ending loss at Xcel Energy Center.
"We lost an incredibly valuable player in Eriksson Ek. God when he took that shot in Pittsburgh, where we sit up watching the games, it was like a deflated feeling because you knew it was bad," Wild General Manager Bill Guerin said Tuesday. "He’s just so important to us, that was a really big loss."
Without Eriksson Ek, the Wild’s top line struggled to score all series. Kaprizov had one goal in six games. Zuccarello was one of three Wild players with five points.
"It didn’t hold up," Eriksson Ek said. "Everyone says it, it’s just so hard to sit there and just watch. That’s harder than actually being out there. You want to be out there, try to do your best to help the team. This year, it just sucks. You play a whole season and right before the playoffs you get hurt."
"To break a leg like that and he tried to come back, it shows the guy he is," defenseman Jonas Brodin said.
It’s fair to question if Eriksson Ek should’ve ever been on the ice in the playoffs at all. But athletes want to play, and the training staff has to clear them from injuries to do so.
Kaprizov played through a leg injury, despite saying Monday it didn’t affect him in the series. Guerin said Tuesday Freddy Gaudreau will have surgery for an abdominal issue he’s had for four months. Ryan Hartman is dealing with a knee injury suffered in Game 1, had to miss Game 2. Zuccarello was dealing with a high groin injury, and Mason Shaw has already had surgery for a torn ACL.
Players want to play in the postseason, even if they’re injured. That's how they're wired. It's up the medical staff to deem them unable to play, whether they're on one leg, dealing with a concussion or whatever the ailment might be.
The hope now is Eriksson Ek can fully recover before next season.