The Minnesota Wild activated leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov off injured reserve prior to Saturday night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, per a team announcement.
Saturday’s contest will be Kaprizov’s first game since sustaining an upper-body injury on a cross-check from Winnipeg Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon on Dec. 30th. He re-enters the lineup after missing seven games and two weeks.
Kaprizov isn’t the only big name returning for Minnesota on Saturday, either. Netminder Filip Gustavsson was activated off IR earlier in the day and projects to start for the first time since Dec. 30 as well.
Despite missing a significant chunk of the past few weeks, Kaprizov still leads the team with 34 points. That’s made up of 13 goals, tied for third behind Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek (who each have 15) and 21 assists, which ranks second behind linemate Mats Zuccarello’s 24.
Without Kaprizov, Gustavsson and even Zuccarello for a stretch of games, the Wild have once again fallen out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Including the Dec. 30 game, the Wild are 1-6-1 in their past eight contests, dropping to 17-19-5 on the season and seventh in the Central Division. In doing so, they’ve undone nearly all the work achieved by a hot start under new head coach John Hynes, who replaced former bench boss Dean Evason in mid-November. As such, their playoff chances are down to under 6%, per Hockey Reference.
A small part of the Wild’s struggles have been due to a step back in production from Kaprizov. The fourth-year NHLer produced at a 1.24 point-per-game clip over the past two seasons, but is down to 1.00 points per game this year. He’s also dropped to 0.38 goals per game this season, the lowest per-game rate of his career.
What hasn’t declined is his two-way game. He has recorded a Corsi share of 54% at even strength, a whopping 4.5% increase from the Wild’s Corsi share without Kaprizov on the ice. As such, he is still undoubtedly the Wild’s most important skater will make a huge splash in their chances of turning their season around.