Hartman fights off illness, returns to high-scoring status with Wild

·3 min read
Star Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO — Ryan Hartman didn't practice, hadn't slept and hardly ate, munching on salad and a few noodles before puck drop.

"I was trying not to throw up on the ice," he said.

A stomach bug interrupted Hartman's routine, but it didn't rob him of his knack for scoring goals.

That skill was evident Friday, as the former Blackhawks player who grew up outside Chicago recorded his first two-goal game with the Wild and a new career high in points in the team's 5-1 rout at United Center that highlighted the full-circle evolution that continues to headline his season.

"That helped a little bit," said Hartman, who had his fifth game-winning goal of the season, ranking tied for third in the NHL. "Good thing they were at the beginning of the shift, I think. Hopefully it's on its way out."

A first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2013, Hartman made an instant impact as an NHLer during his first full season with Chicago.

He racked up 19 goals in 2016-17 while working with future Hall of Famer Marian Hossa for most of the season; captain Jonathan Toews was also an occasional linemate.

After Chicago traded Hartman to the Predators in 2018, his responsibilities changed. He took on depth roles with Nashville and later Philadelphia and even started out as a fourth-line penalty killer with the Wild when the team acquired him in 2019.

But Hartman believed he could revert to the player he was previously in his career if given the chance, and that opportunity arrived this season with Hartman centering the Wild's top duo of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello and thriving in the spot.

"He's progressed as a player, but he plays the same way," coach Dean Evason said of Hartman, who's signed through 2023-24 on a three-year, $5.1 million deal. "He's never changed his style of play. He doesn't cheat the game. He's gritty. He's played hard. He has a skill set that can produce offensively, and he's got a chemistry with those two guys and it's worked out real well."

This revival hasn't gone unnoticed.

Hartman was in the running to be added to the NHL All-Star Game and although the Avalanche's Nazem Kadri won the fan vote instead to join the Central Division roster, this is still shaping up to be a memorable season.

Not only is Hartman on pace to eclipse the career high he scored as a rookie, with his 18 leading the team, but he also set a new personal best in points with 32 after Friday.

"It's good to play meaningful minutes and be put in a place to help the team," Hartman said.

Early exit

Brandon Duhaime finished an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.

He fought the Blackhawks' Riley Stillman in the first period and as that tussle was wrapping up, another one broke out between Wild rookie Connor Dewar and Chicago's MacKenzie Entwistle and both players were kicked out of the game.

According to Rule 46.7, a game misconduct is the penalty for fighting after the original altercation has started.

That meant both sides were playing shorthanded the rest of the game, but that didn't slow down the Wild.

Injury update

Center Joel Eriksson Ek was back in action on Friday after missing five games due to injury and COVID-19.

The Wild is planning on captain Jared Spurgeon (lower-body injury) returning Saturday, and goaltender Cam Talbot is a possibility to back up that game, Evason said.

Defenseman Jonas Brodin, out because of an upper-body injury, was been moved to injured reserve.

Rare series

This weekend's home-and-home vs. the Blackhawks is just the 11th such set in Wild history, which includes a back-to-back against Carolina in Helsinki, Finland, on Oct. 7-8, 2010.