So much has been made the past month about the injuries to Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Josh Harding, it was all but forgotten how important Jared Spurgeon is to the Wild.

The diminutive defenseman averages the third-most ice time on the team and even in the game in which he broke a foot Jan. 2 against Buffalo, Spurgeon gutted through a 27-minute effort with a plus-3.

Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Spurgeon returned after missing 14 games and didn’t miss a beat by assisting on both goals in a 2-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center.

“I was giving him a hard time asking him why he didn’t play Saturday [in Calgary],” defenseman Ryan Suter joked. “But he’s back to his normal self — skating, making plays. It’s a huge bonus to have him back.”

In the penultimate game before the 20-day Olympic break, the Wild, parked in the first of two wild-card playoff spots, gained ground on the teams battling behind them, Vancouver and Phoenix, who both lost.

Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley scored the goals and 6-foot-5 rookie Darcy Kuemper won a nice goalie duel against his 6-7 Lightning counterpart Ben Bishop, a potential Vezina Trophy contender.

Kuemper, who had given up eight goals in his past two starts, made 34 saves after coach Mike Yeo said the day before the challenge of bouncing back would be a “huge growing moment.”

“I’ve been in this situation before at different levels,” Kuemper said. “It was nothing new really. Obviously, first time at this level, but you’ve just got to treat it the same way. That’s what I tried to do. Stick to the fundamentals and things will turn around.”

Just as Spurgeon returned to the lineup though, his reunion with partner Marco Scandella lasted 55 seconds.