Wild defenseman Nate Prosser tries to stay ready when his number is called
COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Wild defenseman Nate Prosser reported to Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday ahead of the evening’s game against the Coyotes, his mindset was to have a solid morning skate as the team’s extra defenseman.
But that focus changed once coach Bruce Boudreau told him fellow blue liner Greg Pateryn was sick.
“Be ready,” Boudreau told Prosser.
All of a sudden, Prosser was preparing to play just his second game of the season — a rare appearance for the Wild’s on-call defenseman.
“I understand what position I’m in,” Prosser said. “I understand my calling and where I’m at on this team. When I do get the chance, I want to step in and be that mistake-free guy that I can be. I was able to do that [Tuesday] night.”
Prosser arrived at Nationwide Arena on Thursday morning not knowing if he’d stay in the lineup but with Pateryn ready to return, the 32-year-old shifted back into his reserve role — skating with fellow scratch Matt Hendricks and backup Alex Stalock while most of his teammates had already left the rink.
“Just back to doing what I can and what’s in my control, and that’s focusing on my game — whether it’s practice or off the ice,” Prosser said. “All that kind of stuff is the name of the game for me. Just trying to be ready when my name’s called again.”
It’s an unheralded responsibility, being able to pivot in and out of the lineup, but a duty the team appreciates — especially when the transition was as seamless as it was in that 4-3 loss to Arizona.
Prosser logged 11 minutes, 44 seconds, a heftier workload than the 3:03 he played in his only other game this season, a 2-1 win over the Coyotes Oct. 16.
“That’s why you love having a guy like Nate around and Hendy around,” Boudreau said. “They work their butt off every practice to push the team and when they get the call, they’re ready — whether it’s Nate’s situation. It’s basically the first time he’s played all year except for three minutes in one game. After the first shift, I thought he handled himself quite well.”
Open to alterations
The Wild deployed the same defensive pairings against the Blue Jackets, even after the second unit of Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba was on the ice for all four of Arizona’s goals.
But Boudreau is open to making in-game adjustments in the future as needed.
“In a situation like [Tuesday], if it comes up again, then I think what will happen is we’ll probably just change just like we’d change forward lines,” Boudreau said, “if we didn’t think one guy was going and insert somebody who was going.”
Pacing the pack
After scoring Thursday to extend his point streak to a season-high six games, winger Zach Parise boasts 12 goals — most on the Wild.
“It’s a place we hoped he’d get back to,” Boudreau said of Parise, who’s closing in on 900 career games. “… That’s his strength is around the net so now that he’s feeling healthy, it’s good that he gets there. He’s on that pace for 25-30-plus. Hopefully he can keep it up.”
When he issued a coach’s challenge Tuesday to determine if the Coyotes’ second goal was off-side or not, Boudreau thought the chances of an overturn were 50-50.
He didn’t have a look on the bench that focused on the blue line, and what he did look at wasn’t crystal clear.
“We have a terrible view, an absolute terrible view from where we’re at,” he said. “It’s like in non-HD, and I was guessing.”
Boudreau did some digging afterward and learned he can get access to the blue-line look when the team is at home — video that could help the Wild improve its success rate with challenges.
That verdict Tuesday dropped the Wild to 0-for-3 in coach’s challenges this season. Two of those attempts were to check for off-side.
“It’s a really tough call,” Boudreau said. “I would never call that with a one-goal lead, by the way, unless I was 100 percent sure.”