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But when one takes a closer look at the amount of minutes Suter has been playing, you can see that his minutes have taken sharp increases since Keith Ballard went down with injury. The combo of Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba have been filling in for Ballard, and both are not playing close to the same average ice time that Ballard was this year.
Here are the last three games (where Ballard didn't leave with injury) showing Ballard's and Suter's TOI:
Suter TOI Ballard TOINov 3 vs NJ 23:27 19:46
Nov 1 vs MTL 26:35 16:19
Oct 12 vs DAL 26:03 18:09
Now compare those minutes with Ballard in the lineup, to the last six games the Wild have played with Dumba/Prosser filling in for Ballard:
Suter TOI Dumba/Prosser TOINov 23 at WPG 30:06 14:42 (Dumba)
Nov 20 at OTT 30:47 9:53 (Dumba)
Nov 19 at MTL 26:56 16:40 (Prosser)
Nov 17 vs WPG 30:08 11:41 (Dumba)
Nov 15 vs FLA 26:49 12:54 (Prosser)
Nov 13 vs TOR 36:00 10:45 (Prosser)
This could just be a coincidence, but its hard to believe that Suter continues to just eat all these minutes when Prosser and Dumba play. Rarely do you see either on the ice after the 10:00 mark of the third, and even then, they are only getting a handful of shifts in that period.
This also shows that the team has little confidence in Dumba and Prosser. Both have had are basically just there to say we dressed someone andto give Suter an extra shift or two off in the first two periods.
When Ballard returns from injury (lets hope for this to happen sooner rather than later), it is extremely logical to assume that Suter will see his minutes go back down to the 26-27 mark. Keeping him out there for 30+ minutes a night will just wear him down by the time we hit April. Also keep in mind this is an Olympic year, and that Suter will be logging the same amount of minutes for an additional 6-9 games depending on how the United States finishes.
Its noble that Ryan Suter can play 30+ minutes a night. Its already made him a contender for the Norris Trophy (not sure how minutes played correlates to winning the Norris Trophy, though). Just don't expect him to continue at this pace when Keith Ballard returns.