For the second time in less than a month, defenseman Matt Dumba returns to his hometown of Calgary as the Minnesota Wild skates against the Flames. Last time the young blueliner arrived in the Stampede City, it was under much different circumstances. He was recalled the morning of Jan. 29, flew in the day of the game and arrived on the flight while the team was at morning skate.
Since being recalled the former first-round pick has skated in all nine of the team’s games, and was much at ease after practice today compared to his last visit. He’s excited to be back and, this time, have an evening to relax.
“It’s nice that I get to be home for just a bit and see the friends and family and the people that supported me through every step to get to this point,” Dumba said. “I get to go home for a nice home-cooked meal tonight, so that’s going to be fun.”
Dumba said he doesn’t have a number for the people who will attend the game, but will send out some texts today to inquire. However, he has a buffer in the city for ticket requests.
“My mom, she’s the coordinator,” Dumba laughed. “I think all my friends and all my family definitely know to go through her.
“She’s made it known that Matt’s got other things to think about than arranging tickets for everyone.”
On the ice, Dumba has been part of the team’s third pair along with Nate Prosser. The more stay-at-home veteran has started to see improvement from the more offensive-minded youngster.
“He’s developing; you can really see it,” Prosser said. “I think he’s really focusing on the D-side of it, that’s the biggest thing that [the coaches] wanted him to do.
“He skates well, he shoots the puck well, so he has a lot of the elements that you need.”
Like any partnership, they have one another’s backs out on the ice.
“We both do a pretty good job of picking each other up,” Prosser said. “We’ve been doing pretty well of communication on and off the ice and making sure we’re ready on the bench going out for our next shift.”
Minnesota closes out the season series against Calgary tomorrow night. Though it’s the 20-year-olds second time skating in the arena with the Wild, it remains a special place.
“It’s kind of a special event when a minor hockey team gets to play at the Saddledome,” Dumba said. “Playing junior in Red Deer, we played Calgary eight or nine times a year, so we played lots here in the Dome.”
Maintenance Day For Vanek; Line Juggling?
Wild forward Thomas Vanek skipped practice for a maintenance day. Head Coach Mike Yeo expects the forward to be in the lineup tomorrow.
Who Vanek will skate with, along with the rest of the forwards, is yet to be determined. Yeo said that there’s a possibility of some line movement. The team’s bench boss said that dispersing the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville was “something we’re tinkering with.”
“Last game was a bit of a different situation, matchup-wise; and tomorrow will be a different one as well,” Yeo said. “So, it’s something we’re thinking about, but nothing concrete yet.”
Here’s what the combinations looked like today sans Vanek:
Heat Is On
The hits just keep on coming for the Wild, as it tries to ascend the top-8 in the Western Conference against another team that is ahead in the standings. Despite going 8-1-2 in its last 11 games, Minnesota found itself in 10th place in the West thanks to last night’s loss in Vancouver, and coupled with wins by the Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets. So, the Wild is trying to concentrate on things it can control, like on-ice performance in practice and games.
“It’s tough because you lose one game in two weeks or three weeks or whatever it was in regulation and it feels like you’ve probably lost four or five in a row,” Yeo said. “But that’s part of the challenge and part of the journey of getting there.”
With the standings looming over the team like a storm cloud, the club looks to use the precipitous situation to its advantage.
“Hopefully you use it to improve your game day-in and day-out,” Yeo said. “If you lost a game like we did last night, then we have to come back today and figure out what we need to do better.”
The Wild looks to rain on the Flames’ margin in the standing at 8:30 p.m. State of Hockey Time tomorrow at the Scotiabank Saddledome.