Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, a 24-year-old point producer who was shaping up to have a career-best year through his first 32 games of this season, instead hasn’t played for the Wild since a Dec. 15 contest against the Calgary Flames. That’s when Dumba had to leave the game after just one period with what turned out to be a ruptured right pectoral muscle, which needed surgery.
Speaking to the media on Friday for the first time since his surgery, Dumba said “it’s hard to say” if he will be back at all this season, and he confirmed what some had suspected: The cause of his injury was an opening-minute fight with Flames pest Matthew Tkachuk, who went after Dumba in retaliation for an overly aggressive hit on Mikael Backlund in their prior meeting.
“I was angry and threw a wild punch that didn’t connect,” Dumba said. “I had a bunch of stitches in my face and I think he rubbed those, had hit those a couple times, and it made me pretty angry.”
In his 32 games, Dumba had picked up 12 goals and 10 assists, showing continued improvement after a promising run of seasons that asserted himself as a crucial piece for the Wild’s long-term future. But in the month since his injury, the Wild have taken a bit of a dip, going from a 17-12-2 record before the Flames game to 23-21-3 today. They’ve lost three of their last four, including an ugly defeat to the Ducks on Thursday night, and they just changed things up by swapping Nino Niederreiter straight-up with the Hurricanes for Victor Rask.
One lesson here for Dumba, of course, is, “Try not to fight, especially if you’re an important part of a fringe playoff team.” However, the other piece of wisdom in this tragic story is equally important: Stay the hell away from Matthew Tkachuk at all costs.