Ryan Suter will celebrate a milestone on Thursday night. The Minnesota Wild hope to do it with two points as the end result.
When Suter skates on the Xcel Energy Center ice for his team's home game against the Los Angeles Kings, it will be to appear in his 1,000th NHL game. He'll become the 325th player and 109th defenseman in league history to reach four figures.
The 33-year old Suter has been a model of durability and consistency in his 13-plus seasons, the last six-plus with Minnesota after signing as a free agent on July 4, 2012 following seven years with Nashville.
Suter owns 500 career points and has blocked more than 1,000 shots while playing more minutes than any player in the NHL since joining the Wild. In helping Minnesota to a 4-2-2 start and a three-game winning streak, Suter is off to a fast start with two goals and five assists.
"He doesn't get anywhere near the accolades he deserves to get," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm really happy for him. It's quite the accomplishment. And the minutes played to get to this point, it's a tremendous honor and well-deserved."
There were some who wondered whether Suter could be a No. 1 defenseman after being paired with Shea Weber for most of his 542 career games in Nashville. Those doubts disappeared fairly quickly.
Whether he's worked with Jonas Brodin, his partner in his first year with Minnesota, Jared Spurgeon or rising star Matt Dumba, Suter has been Mr. Steady. His simple game, consisting of getting pucks out of the zone and always being in proper position while playing against opponents' top lines, has allowed him to thrive. His career plus-minus is plus-112.
"Every player that wants to have a long career has to focus on that side of it," Suter said.
Suter and his team haven't played since a 5-4 overtime win Saturday night over Tampa Bay. They overcame a 3-1 deficit in that one, skating off on Mikael Granlund's goal at 3:43. The most encouraging thing about the win was that they outshot one of the league's top possession teams, reversing an early-season trend of being heavily outshot.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles (2-6-1) comes into town struggling badly. It's lost five in a row, including a 4-2 setback Tuesday night in Dallas, and hasn't even owned a lead in that span.
The Kings' problems are numerous. Goalie Jonathan Quick is off to a rough start, losing all four of his starts and posting a brutal save percentage of .846, .070 under his career numbers. No team in the Western Conference, not even Arizona, has a worse record.
Los Angeles' minus-15 goal differential is worse than any team except Detroit. It ranks 28th in goals-against (32) and penalty-kill percentage (70.8), and sits at 29th in goals for (17), assists (29), shooting percentage (6.77) and power-play percentage (10.0).
"We're in a situation," forward Jeff Carter said to the Los Angeles Times. "It's frustrating. I think we're the only ones that can get us out of it."
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