Wild’s Freddy Gaudreau blames himself for Ryan Reaves hit that cost him 10 games

The Wild got a big piece back last Sunday when forward Freddy Gaudreau returned from a core injury suffered on a hit from Toronto’s Ryan Reaves way back on Oct. 14.

Gaudreau left the game for several minutes before returning to finish a 7-4 victory by the Maple Leafs and stayed in the lineup for four more games before huddling with team trainers.

“Well, it’s kind of in our nature to just ignore stuff like that,” Gaudreau said this week. “But then it comes to a point where I’m not really helping anybody because I’m playing in my head — because I don’t really know what’s going on and it doesn’t seem to get better.”

After missing 10 games, Gaudreau returned to play 15:04 in the Wild’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto in Stockholm, Sweden. His absence was a big hit for a team struggling to get its head above water. Asked Friday what Gaudreau does for his team, coach Dean Evason said, “Well, everything, right?”

Gaudreau not only plays in all situations for Minnesota, he “can start left, right or center,” takes faceoffs and is great in shootouts, scoring on 8 of 13 chances last season to lead the NHL.

“It’s depth,” Evason said. “He’s a solid, solid NHL hockey player.”

As for the hit from Reaves, a blind-side check from his former Minnesota teammate, Gaudreau blamed himself.

“There’s not one second I thought that was a cheap hit, to be honest,” he said. “When I got the puck on that play, I took my read and I saw some guys changing. I thought that it was just a 2 on 2, so that’s why I cut to the middle, and then I never saw him coming.

“That’s his job. It’s not as if just because we played together he’s not going to finish the hit. To be honest, it’s me who put myself in that bad position, so I can’t blame anybody but myself.”

Full strength

Alex Gologoski was officially activated off long-term injury reserve on Friday, bringing the Wild to full strength for the first time this season. He wasn’t among the 20 to dress for the game, but he was officially available for the first time since suffering a fractured fibula during an Oct. 16 practice in Montreal.

Goligoski (15 games), Gaudreau (10 games), Jared Spurgeon (13) and Matt Boldy (7) all miss substantial time this season with injuries, certainly part of the reason the Wild entered Friday’s 7:30 p.m. puck drop with just five wins (5-8-4). Now they’re all healthy, and the Wild are eager to see what happens.

“We’ve had full teams in the past, and I know how good we can be when we have that,” right wing Mats Zuccarello said.

Outside of swapping defensemen Calen Addison (traded to San Jose) for Nick Bogosian (acquired from Tampa Bay), it’s the team general manager Bill Guerin built for 2024-23.

Zuccarello leads the Wild in points (5-14–19), but asked Friday if he’s happy with his game, the veteran from Norway said no.

“It’s a team game, and you measure yourself in team wins and team performance,” he said. “I feel like I’m old enough (36) to know you’re only as good as your team. Maybe if I was younger I might worry more about other stuff, which is normal. Right now the most important thing to get that good feeling, and positively within the group, is to win.”

Goligoski, whose fibula was fractured by a puck during a practice on Oct. 16, was a healthy scratch Friday because Evason liked what he saw from Jon Merrill in the Wild’s two NHL Global Series games in Stockholm. “We’ll obviously have to talk and make decisions as we move forward here,” Evason said.


The Wild reassigned D Dakota Mermis and F Vinni Lettieri to AHL Iowa on Friday, in large part because of the Wild’s slim cap margin, officially $803,968 according to capfriendly.com.

Mermis played a career-high 13 games (2-3–5), and Lettieri scored a pair of goals in 11 games and found a spot on the penalty kill. “We feel very comfortable having them in our lineup, and it gives us good depth,” Evason said.

But after adding Goligoski ($2 million), their combined salaries of $1.5 million would put Minnesota over the cap. Now under, and with no one on LTIR, the Wild can go back to accruing cap space.

“Obviously, everybody knows our situation,” Evason said, “so we’re just trying to keep as (few) bodies as we can here when we have that opportunity.”

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