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West Coast trip offers Dubnyk a chance to reflect on 500 games

Veteran netminder became the 73rd goaltender in NHL history to reach milestone last week

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

The Wild's four-game, 10-day trip offered goaltender Devan Dubnyk an opportunity to celebrate a career milestone, while also doing some reflecting on how far he's come to reach it. 

It wasn't ideal circumstances, but Dubnyk skated in his 500th NHL game last week in San Jose, entering the game at the start of the second period with the Wild trailing by four goals. 

Minnesota celebrated the occasion by coming back from a 6-2 deficit in the third period by scoring three-straight goals in the final 20 and nearly tying the game in the final moments of an eventual 6-5 loss. 

In reaching 500 games, Dubnyk became just the 73rd goaltender in NHL history -- and the 11th active goalie -- to reach 500 career games in the NHL. He will be honored at Xcel Energy Center in a pregame ceremony on Nov. 29 before the Wild plays the Ottawa Senators.

"It was pretty unceremonious, but that's how you get games," Dubnyk said. "It's fun. It's been approaching, so it's a good time to sit back and reflect on it a little bit and all the different roads that have been taken."

The following day, the team travelled to Glendale, Arizona to prep for a game against the Arizona Coyotes, a place that remains special to Dubnyk.

Glendale is, afterall, one of those "roads" Dubnyk is referring to. 

In the summer of 2014 and Dubnyk was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. He was coming off the most difficult year of his time in the NHL, one in which he played for three different franchises and posted a combined record of 11-18-3 with a goals-against average of 3.43 and a save percentage of .891. 

Those numbers were far off his previous career averages with the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Dubnyk broke in with the Oilers in 2009-10 and played in 171 games with Edmonton until he was traded to Nashville in the middle of that tumultuous 2013-14 campaign. 

After playing in two games for the Predators, where he allowed a total of nine goals, Dubnyk was traded again, this time to Montreal. He never played a game for the Canadiens, but skated in eight games for their AHL affiliate in Hamilton before he was allowed to go home to be with his family.

Off his game and unsigned, Dubnyk's career was at a crossroads and he wasn't sure he would ever play another NHL game until the Coyotes signed him to a veteran-minimum contract to be Mike Smith's backup.

He was good in 19 games with Arizona before he was shipped to Minnesota in January of 2015, where his story becomes well known to Wild fans.

"Sometimes you just need that opportunity somewhere else," Dubnyk said. "It just takes that opportunity and then it's what you do with it."

But even Dubnyk admitted he couldn't have predicted, 173 games into his NHL career when he signed with Arizona, that he would one day reach 500. 

"It's funny that [we were standing in that rink] talking about it," Dubnyk said. "When I signed [in Arizona], coming into that offseason, you don't know which way your career is going and if you're gonna play for another two years and another 40 games or what the case is.

"Coming [to Arizona], they gave me a chance to come in and feel good about myself. Certainly, at that time, I would have never imagined [my career] would get here. It's pretty cool to think back on it."

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