For the second straight Monday, Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been named a National Hockey League Star of the Week. This week, he’s ascended to the top of the League’s Three Stars thanks to a two-game scoreless streak. In two wins Dubnyk was perfect, posting two shutouts and stopping all 42 shots faced.
The 28-year-old will be in net tonight as the Wild hosts the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. This is the second of three meetings between the teams in a 16-day span. The last time the netminder gave up a goal was against the Canucks. Dubnyk backstopped the Wild to victory in Vancouver on Feb. 1, making 35 saves, his most in a Minnesota sweater.
The netminder has helped vault the Wild back into the Western Conference playoff race. Since his acquisition from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14, Dubnyk has started every game, going 7-1-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and four shutouts. The Wild has won five games in a row in regulation coming into tonight.
“It probably starts with him in the sense that he’s making a key save at a key time,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s got a sense of control calmness back there that has trickled trough to the rest of the group.”
The Wild had three goaltenders at practice during the team’s morning skate. Darcy Kuemper returned to the team after a conditioning stint with the Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate. Kuemper went 2-3-0 with a 3.22 goals-against average, a .891 save percentage and one shutout in five starts with Iowa.
Yeo said that he’s approaching the goaltender situation like the rest of the team, taking things day-by-day, but added that Dubnyk has earned the starting role as long as he can continue his stellar play.
“He’s been playing at a level that whenever he’s available and whenever we feel he’s fresh and whenever we feel we’re not putting him in a bad situation; right now the way things are going there’s a good chance he’ll be in the net,” Yeo said.
Of course, the team will play tomorrow night in Winnipeg, but the bench boss isn’t focused on that matchup quite yet. Tonight, Niklas Backstrom will back up Dubnyk. Although the team has three goaltenders, Yeo believes that the trio will be professional in their approach moving forward.
“I have no concern whatsoever about the challenges,” Yeo said. “I do know that we’re managing it correctly. In a lot of ways I feel bad for Backy and I feel bad for Kuemps. Obviously, as well as Duby’s played, he deservers an awful lot of attention and that’s magnified and put a little more pressure and been tougher for those guys to deal with everything. But they’re handling it well and have a great attitude.”
With Dubnyk in goal the club has won five straight games since the All-Star Break. Minnesota has started to find its game and Yeo hopes the team will be able to continue its play regardless of who is between the pipes.
“I’d like to think we can support our teammates, that’s what good teams do,” Yeo said. “I’m hoping [Kuemper] gets in and he gets off to a great start and that he gives everybody a chance to relax and do their own thing.”
The Wild has activated forward Justin Fontaine from Injured Reserve. The 27-year-old has missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury.