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Wild To Be Without Dubnyk, Pominville vs. Oilers

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

With goaltender Devan Dubnyk sick, Darcy Kuemper will start on Thursday for the Minnesota Wild, who also recalled Steve Michalek from Iowa under emergency conditions.

Michalek has been back and forth between Iowa of the American Hockey League, and Quad City of the East Coast Hockey League in his first year pro.

In the AHL, Michalek is 6-2-0 with a .931 save percentage. In the ECHL, he's 12-8-4 with a .924 save percentage. 

"Teams I've been on, we've been winning for the most part," Michalek said. "I've steadily gotten better, and I'm a different goalie now than I was in September."

He becomes the latest Minnesota Wild player to have also played under interim Head Coach John Torchetti, whom coached Michalek in Iowa this season. Their relationship began at the annual prospects tournament in Traverse City in August.

"You see in the morning skate, he competes hard, really, really works, and he's done a good job with his practice habits from Traverse City," Torchetti said. "He's just gotten better every day, and really competes hard, and I really like that in a goalie."

That compete included a fight in Michalek's very first AHL game.

"That was not how I imagined it going down, but it was good to get the first game out of the way," Michalek said. "It was certainly one I won't forget.

"I survived."

The starter on Thursday for the Wild will be Kuemper, who came on in relief for Dubnyk in the Wild's past game on Sunday. Kuemper stopped all 18 shots he faced over 27-plus minutes, and said he hopes he can build off that performance against Edmonton.

"You just want to keep things rolling," he said. "I felt good in that game, I've been feeling good in practice, and I've been feeling pretty good in the games I've been playing. I'll just go out there and play, and don't think too much."

Forward Jason Pominville, who sustained a lower-body injury against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, and then played against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, will also not be available on Thursday against the Oilers.

The scratch will bring a consecutive games played streak of 231, which tied the longest in Wild franchise history, to an end.

Forward Justin Fontaine will take Pominville's spot on the third line with Erik Haula and Nino Niederretier.

"We think [Fontaine] is going to come in and do a good job," Torchetti said. "It's a good situation for him. We had him in a checking role before, and he's got the good hockey sense offensively to fill it in. We'll miss [Pominville] for sure, but someone else gets an opportunity, and it's good that we have extra bodies to have that opportunity to be in the lineup."

Fontaine was scratched against St. Louis on Sunday, and said any opportunity to get back in the lineup is one he needs to take advantage of.

"We've played together before," Fontaine said of his new linemates. "Communication, and moving our feet, and attacking with speed is a big key for us, and we need to focus on that, and playing a good two-way game."

Forward Jarret Stoll will also return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Sunday for the first time since the Wild claimed him off waivers in mid-December. Stoll had played in 37 consecutive games.

Here is the Wild's projected lineup:

Zach PariseMikko KoivuCharlie Coyle

Thomas VanekMikael GranlundJason Zucker

Nino NiederreiterErik HaulaJustin Fontaine

Chris PorterJarret StollDavid Jones

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaMatt Dumba

Jonas BrodinMike Reilly

Darcy Kuemper

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