After a month off, Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek is finally ready to return
If everything goes according to plan, he will play in Friday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek joked that he didn’t know if he should laugh or cry last week.
After missing some time with an upper-body injury, Eriksson Ek practiced with the Wild last week, and was poised to suit up in last Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Or so he thought.
Unfortunately for Eriksson Ek, the 24-year-old from Sweden entered COVID protocol ahead of last Thursday’s practice, further delaying his return to the lineup.
“It was hard,” he said. “It gave me some extra days to heal, though, and (I’ll) definitely be ready to go.”
If everything goes according to plan, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, Eriksson Ek will play in Friday’s game against the Blackhawks in Chicago. It will be his first action since getting injured in the Dec. 20 loss to the Dallas Stars.
“Luckily for me, they haven’t been away too much,” Eriksson Ek said. “It’s no fun to work out by myself and try to get back to get healthy. But I didn’t miss a lot of games, and that probably helped me to not get too mad or too angry with the time I spent out.”
Though he has been out for the past month, because of the wonky schedule caused by COVID outbreaks throughout the NHL, Eriksson Ek has only missed five games. While that’s fortunate for Eriksson Ek, it also means that the Wild are going to have a sprint to the finish line.
“It’s almost going to be like last season, right?” Eriksson Ek said of the compacted schedule. “That’s what we want to do. We want to play games. We are definitely ready for it.”
It shouldn’t be too difficult for Eriksson Ek to assimilate back into the lineup, playing between wingers Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno. That trio works so well together and seem to bring out the best in each other.
“We know what to expect from each other,” Eriksson Ek said. ” For me, it’s about getting timing back, getting into the rhythm of the games, and trying to do that as quick as possible.”
Asked if he has any reservation about returning to the lineup, Eriksson Ek dismissed that question, saying he has to play the same way that’s made him effective throughout his six-year career.
“I have to let myself do that to feel comfortable that I’m doing the right stuff out there,” he said. “If I’m skating around thinking, I’m probably just going to be mad at myself. I have to be comfortable to go out there and play how I want to play.”
With so many games postponed due to COVID outbreaks, the Wild have learned the makeup games they have to play next month. There will be home games against the Carolina Hurricanes (Feb. 12), Detroit Red Wings (Feb. 14) and Florida Panthers (Feb. 18), plus road games against the Winnipeg Jets (Feb. 8 and 16), Edmonton Oilers (Feb. 20) and Ottawa Senators (Feb. 22)