RALEIGH, N.C. — Matt Dumba wasn't on the ice Thursday when the Wild continued their road trip at Carolina, but injury didn't sideline the defenseman.
The Wild did.
For the first time in almost seven years, Dumba was a healthy scratch.
"I won't get into specifics," coach Dean Evason said, "but he knows why he's sitting out."
Evason described the demotion as a "hockey decision" indicative of Dumba's performance.
Alex Goligoski took Dumba's spot alongside Jonas Brodin. The only other lineup change the Wild made was in the crease, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury getting the start after Filip Gustavsson kicked off the trip on Tuesday at Washington.
"Whenever you sit somebody out, there's a reason, right?" said Evason, who stated Dumba handled the news professionally. "There's play that we feel warrants that a guy needs to not play in a hockey game, and that's it."
This was the first game Dumba missed all season, and the last time he was a healthy scratch was April 5, 2016, vs. San Jose.
He was almost scratched the following season but ended up playing because a teammate was sick.
Dumba said he was "pretty surprised" by the move, calling it the "organization's decision," and he felt his game has been "really good," although he did mention there were "some plays" in the Wild's 4-2 win vs. the Capitals and that he "wasn't happy with them either."
Before picking up an assist on Brodin's goal in the second period, Dumba was on the ice for Washington's first tally when Martin Fehervary skated between Dumba and Mats Zuccarello to complete a give-and-go into the Wild net.
Overall, the Capitals registered 15 of their 39 scoring chances during Dumba's shifts, according to the web site Natural Stat Trick, but that wasn't the most on the team. What was the worst, though, was the 2.4 expected goals against while Dumba was playing.
"Never not tried my hardest," said Dumba, who has four goals and eight assists through 43 games. "Mistakes happen, and I was pumped we got two points there. Some guys stepped up and played really well. That's what a team does, pulls each other up. We're all not going to have it night to night.
"I guess maybe it wasn't exactly one of my strong nights. I thought since the little lapse at the start of the year, I thought my game's been really consistent."
Prior to getting benched, Dumba was already under the microscope because of his contract status.
With unrestricted free agency looming and in the final season of a five-year, $30 million deal, the 28-year-old alternate captain could be traded before the March 3 deadline. Even if he does stay put, Dumba could still be nearing the end of his Wild tenure since the team is projected to have limited salary cap space in the offseason.
After getting drafted seventh overall in 2012, Dumba has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, posting 79 goals and 155 assists for 234 points in 562 games to rank fifth in team history among defensemen.
"It's hard," said Dumba, who won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and was a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy finalist in recent years for his leadership, contributions to the community and dedication to hockey. "Try not to listen to anything. Still, it gets back to you one way or another. It's just life. Struggle in life, everything that comes at you, I think everyone, we all see it. We all have a vision of how our future's gonna look good. It never seems to go exactly that course.
"Right now, there's ups and downs of it. I'm gonna work hard and try to get this in the direction I want it to go."