In the latest edition of Bruce Bites, Wild.com's Dan Myers sits down with coach Bruce Boudreau to talk about that fateful night Oct. 12 in Chicago, the emergence of rookie Luke Kunin and the confidence he has in Alex Stalock :
Dan Myers: Let's go back to that night in Chicago a few weeks back. You lose Marcus Foligno after the fight, then Nino Niederreiter goes down. A shift later, Charlie Coyle gets hurt. Have you ever seen anything like that?
Bruce Boudreau: I think I may have had it one more time, but I just remember having the feeling of it, I don't remember who it was, where it was. I just remember thinking, 'Are we getting hurt on every shift?' That game (this season against Chicago) was a fun win because everybody that didn't play normal minutes got to play more than their share, and they really came together that night. Unfortunately, we lost three good players. And at the time, neither one of [Coyle or Niederreiter] looked serious. They ended up being bad injuries; sometimes you see a hit and you know a guy is hurt bad. But Charlie has been hit with the puck standing in front of the net so many times; it looked like it was an 'ouch' and that was it. Nino was the same way. They were both standing on the bench and there was a TV timeout after that. They were both trying to shake it off and I thought, 'OK, they've both done this numerous times,' and they'll just shake it off. Little did I know, the injuries were much worse than I thought.
DM: Especially early in the season, you're trying to get a gauge on your team and evaluate them. How difficult do circumstances like this make your job in trying to do that?
BB: It's hard, but you sure know where your depth lies, you find out where your depth lies. With us, let's face it, Luke Kunin has come up and done really, really well. The other guys have come up and filled gaps, but they are what they are and they've filled those gaps. They solidified the fact they're real good call-up guys and you learn that about your organization.
DM: I know you were real impressed with the job Kunin did in Traverse City in September, then he followed that with a strong training camp. Are you at all surprised at how a 19-year-old has come in and seemingly earned more and more trust and playing time with each passing game?
BB: There's a reason he was a first-round pick. He's a real good player. He's a non-flashy player though, so it takes a little more time to notice him. But I guarantee you, throughout his career, every coach that he has is going to want him on the team because they can count on him. He's a reliable player. He pays attention and listens when you're talking to him, then he goes out and he does what you ask him to.
DM: Injuries aside, do you see any similarities between the start you had this season and the one you had last season? I know last season there was a bit of a feeling -out process as it was your first season behind the bench.
BB: I think there's a feeling-out process this year too, with quite a few different guys in and out of the lineup. If you think about the guys we're missing from last year's team, and the turnaround, there has been a feeling-out process. And we're getting better, but it's not where we want to be. The other day, we showed game 20 [last season] against Pittsburgh, which is where we started to take off a little bit. And we weren't anywhere near where we were there [on Saturday], but we're starting to get closer, and a little bit better and a little bit sooner than I think we did last year.
DM: It's a limited sample size, but what has Alex Stalock provided you in a backup goalie role that maybe you didn't have last season?
BB: We hope he continually does this all year long because it gives you that extra something we didn't have. [Darcy Kuemper], and I wish him the absolute best in Los Angeles, didn't give us that warm and fuzzy feeling last year. And you need a guy to be able to do that on a continual basis because no goalie in this League can do that for 75 or 80 games. Eventually, it wears them out.