With the sting of a first-round playoff elimination only four days old, Matt Dumba hesitated when asked about the injury that cost him 12 games in April and limited his effectiveness during the Wild's playoff ouster against the St. Louis Blues.
"Yeah, I punctured my lung, dislocated one of my ribs, broke another,'' the defenseman said Monday during the team's end-of-season interviews at Xcel Energy Center. "It was tough to go through. Thanks to our staff working with me every day or I wouldn't have been able to come back at the rate that I did and even play.''
Dumba was injured April 5 at Nashville when he delivered a check to Predators defenseman Michael McCarron. He returned for the regular-season finale against Colorado and played all six playoff games, scoring the Wild's lone goal in Game 6.
"I wanted to get back and help this team in whatever capacity because it's just so much fun to be a part of,'' Dumba said. "That's why everyone around here in Minnesota is pretty fired up and also disappointed because they've seen how crazy this gets down here on Seventh Street, in warmups, throughout the games.''
Dumba now enters a typical offseason for him, one that will include speculation about his status with the team. He is slated to make $6 million in 2022-23, then become an unrestricted free agent after the season. If Wild General Manager Bill Guerin wants to keep forward Kevin Fiala, he likely would have to trade Dumba because of salary cap restraints.
"I love it here in Minnesota,'' Dumba said, adding that, "Billy's got some decisions to make, and he's going to do whatever is best for this hockey club. I want to be a part of that. … But hockey is a crazy business.''
Eriksson Ek on the mend
Joel Eriksson Ek wore the look of someone who just went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson. A badly swollen bottom lip, a handful of missing teeth and the general appearance of disappointment.
Eriksson Ek's situation provided an apt metaphor for the Wild's collapse from a 2-1 series lead to a six-game ouster. In Game 6, he took an errant stick to the mouth from teammate Dmitry Kulikov, friendly fire that kept the Wild's standout two-way center out of the game for more than a period as St. Louis built its lead to 4-0.
"I lost three or four [teeth], and they had to pull them out,'' he said. "My jaw line was broken, and there was a hole through my lip. It doesn't look that bad, but it got me pretty bad."
Defenseman Jake Middleton, who is missing a couple of his front teeth, gave Eriksson Ek some advice.
"I said to him after the game, 'Get those [teeth] out of your mouth,' '' Middleton said. "They were all hanging. … It's way less painful to get the root canal. He did the next morning, and they were gone.''
Kaprizov aiming for more
Wild star Kirill Kaprizov set Wild records with 47 goals and 108 points in the regular season and scored seven goals in six playoff games, but he saw an opportunity lost.
"Very disappointing, obviously, the way the season ended,'' he said through a translator. "I still don't believe it's over. Ultimately, we wanted more. We wanted to achieve more.''
Kaprizov plans to return to his native Russia soon.
They like it here
Middleton and forward Nicolas Deslauriers, acquired by Guerin to add grit and physicality to the Wild's lineup, both expressed the desire to remain with the team.
"It's been a pretty gnarly ride,'' Middleton said, laughing. "I started out thinking I was just going to be playing in the America League again. Made camp, read my name all over Twitter and got traded a couple days later to a contending team with a bunch of great dudes. It was so cool to be a part of.''
Middleton, who made $725,000 this season, is a restricted free agent.
Deslauriers made $1 million this season and is an unrestricted free agent.
"I wanted my family to be here and experience this new place,'' he said. "We love it. Now, it's part of the business to see what happens, but we strongly love Minny, and obviously I hope I come back.''