Mason Shaw wins credit-card roulette, but skidding Wild can’t get win in his NHL return



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ST. LOUIS — Mason Shaw was out to dinner with one of his best friends, Connor Dewar, and fellow teammates Marc-Andre Fleury, Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, Jake Middleton, Ryan Hartman and Alex Goligoski on Friday night when John Hynes’ name flashed across his caller ID.

A week before the trade deadline, you typically don’t want to receive a call from the head coach or the GM of your hockey team, but Shaw figured this was going to be the call he had been waiting for since the beginning part of last month when the Wild tore up his AHL deal and re-signed him to an NHL deal.

“Get ready to go, kid, and be buzzin’,” the Wild coach told the 25-year-old 336 days after he tore an ACL for the fourth time in his young hockey career.

If a year’s worth of rehab wasn’t excruciatingly long enough, Shaw had to bide his time for 16 days to make his season debut since re-signing. The Wild were winning and fighting for a playoff spot, so he didn’t get to play. But with Freddy Gaudreau suddenly needing to be removed from the lineup Saturday after enduring a nagging injury for some time, Shaw was suddenly an NHL player again.

“Sometimes you gotta be patient and wait for things in life, whether it’s hockey or away from it,” Shaw said. “I think last night you kind of realize that you’re gonna get the chance to play in the NHL again and that’s all I’ve wanted from Day One of this recovery process was to get a chance to play in the NHL again.

“I think last night before the game, you appreciate what you’ve given yourself and what you’ve worked back to, but at the end of the day once we get to the rink it’s just hockey again and we’re in the middle of a fight right now.”

 

That was the shame of the Wild’s 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center, a third straight defeat to continue a weeklong destruction of their season after climbing to within two points of a playoff spot only seven days earlier.

What an accomplishment for Shaw on Saturday night, yet the team’s biggest example of unparalleled determination couldn’t even celebrate because the Wild are keenly aware of what they’ve done to themselves with successive losses to the Hurricanes, Predators and Blues. Nashville won for an eighth straight time, meaning the Wild in one measly week have gone from two points back to 10 points back of the Preds for the top wild-card spot and eight back of the Blues for the bottom wild-card spot.

“I think everyone in this room is doing the best to just put their head down and work, and obviously you want to be on the winning side of these games, but just let the chips fall where they may,” Shaw said.

Shaw wasn’t talking about wins and losses here.

He was talking about the uncomfortable feeling teammates like Dewar and Brandon Duhaime are dealing with knowing that their names are being floated in trade banter. Every game could be their last in Minnesota with the Wild only having two games before Friday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline (Sunday against San Jose and Thursday at Arizona).

“Dewy 1” and “Dewy 2” are on expiring deals. Shaw is back in the lineup. Marat Khusnutdinov is on his way from Russia to Kazakhstan for an appointment to get his U.S. work visa finalized so he could cross the Atlantic and join the Wild next week hopefully in time for the team’s trip to Arizona and Denver.

The Wild brass, even though everybody’s talking a good game that they’re still in the playoff race, know the reality of this situation. They are likely ready to punt on this close to being lost season and begin a mini roster reset as long as Gaudreau’s injury and an undisclosed one sustained by Marcus Johansson on Saturday night don’t cause Bill Guerin to change his mind with the need to keep healthy bodies around. Remember, Pat Maroon hasn’t played since before the All-Star break and isn’t close to returning, and Marcus Foligno was injured during the second game after the break and isn’t close to returning. He was in St. Louis on Saturday to see a specialist for his injury, and Hynes said an update should come soon.

“It’s obviously a stressful time of year,” Shaw said of Dewar and Duhaime. “Those are some of your best friends and teammates, so to see them going through it, it’s hard. But at the end of the day, we try to do our best to let the noise be what it is. Whoever it is, we know what we sign up for when we sign these contracts and what can come with it. Not an easy time of year, but it’s part of the game.”

Shaw is just content to be able to play this game again.

He skated on the left side of Jake Lucchini and Vinni Lettieri, played nine shifts totaling 7 minutes, 6 seconds of ice time, had four shot attempts and two hits. He was on the ice for one goal in the first period, but that was a bad bounce when a deflected puck hit the near post, ricocheted back into Fleury and over the goal line by about an inch.

There were plays he wanted back, like when he continued a first 10-minute trend for the entire Wild team by forcing a pass to Lettieri when he was ahead a play.

“That’s probably an opportunity where if I was to do that again, I would have shot that puck or taken it to the net,” he said. “But the game happens fast. And obviously at the NHL level, it happens even faster. So, to do that again, I definitely would have shot that one.”

Shaw admitted he had trouble sleeping Friday night, but he said he was calm before the game.

“It felt like I was just straight back where I was supposed to be,” he said. “Certainly, you’d like a few things back in the game like you always would when you’re on the losing side of things. But (let’s) see what (Sunday) brings, I guess.”

If he was inferring he may not be playing, he shouldn’t worry about that.

Hynes ruled Gaudreau out for the home game against the Sharks. And if Johansson can’t play – he left the game after a five-second shift in the first period and never returned, the Wild will need to recall a forward or play seven defensemen by dressing Dakota Mermis or Goligoski.

Teammates were downtrodden after the loss, but it wasn’t lost on them what type of achievement Shaw made by being back on an NHL ice surface for the first time since last April 1.

“It’s spectacular,” Dewar said. “I can’t put it into words. Everyone knows Mason and just his character, so I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend.”

Those friends gave Shaw knuckles after he hung up the phone with Hynes the night before.

“These guys have been my biggest supporters through all this,” Shaw said. “Whether I was in Iowa or in the summer, they’ve always been making sure they’re reaching out to me and taking the time to appreciate what I’m going through.”

Best yet, Shaw and his dinner dates Friday night played credit card roulette to settle up their expensive tab.

Each player’s credit card went into the middle. Middleton lost, meaning he had to pay for it all.

“That was maybe the cherry on top for me was I didn’t have to grab the bill,” Shaw said, laughing.

(Photo: Scott Rovak / NHLI via Getty Images)





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