Wild and New Jersey Devils tonight at Xcel Energy Center. Game 2 of a three-game homestand.
The Wild’s looking to avoid losing consecutive games since Jan. 19-20. The Devils are 7-2-1 in their past 10.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Cory Schneider tonight.
It will be Dubnyk’s 200th NHL start, 25th in a row for the Wild and 26th straight overall dating to Arizona. That’s the most consecutive in the NHL since 2012 because Pekka Rinne started 25 straight in 2013 for Nashville. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last goalie to start more than 25 straight was Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller in 2011-12 (32). Glenn Hall holds the record of 503 straight. I’m already planning a special section for when Dubnyk breaks that.
In all seriousness, coach Mike Yeo said Dubnyk will likely start Friday’s game vs. Anaheim, but it certainly sounds like the Wild’s considering throwing Darcy Kuemper to the wolves … excuse me, I mean starting Kuemper for the first time since Jan. 6 on Saturday’s second of a back-to-back in St. Louis.
Way too premature to think about that yet though, Yeo said. “I’m planning for tonight and … a better than a good chance that Dubnyk will be in for that Anaheim game, and then we’ll play it by ear after that.”
“He’s looked sharp, he’s looked fresh,” Yeo said of Dubnyk. “He’s a competitor, he wants the net, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and that confidence has filtered through to the rest of the group.”
Schneider leads all NHL goaltenders in shots against (1,643) and saves (1,524). Additionally, he ranks second in the NHL with 57 games-played, 56 games started & 3,272 minutes, is third with a .928 save-percentage, seventh with a 2.18 goals-against average & is ninth (tie, four others) with four shutouts this season. Believe it or not, Schneider ranks first with a 2.09 goals-against average (2nd, Henrik Lundqvist, 2.18) and a .928 save-percentage (2nd, Tuukka Rask, .925) among goaltenders that have played in at least 100 games since the start of 2010-11.
As you know because Schneider became Vancouver’s obligatory starter anytime the Canucks came to St. Paul because of Roberto Luongo’s struggles here, Schneider is good vs. the Wild – 8-5 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Zach Parise, who had dinner with a bunch of his former Devils teammates last night, was getting a lot of ribbing from current teammates like Jason Pominville and Keith Ballard this morning for needing to cut the cord. The former Devils captain moseyed on over to the Devils’ bench a couple times to chat with Adam Oates and Devils immortality Lou Lamoriello, their longtime GM and now part-time coach with Oates and Scott Stevens.
Parise has one assist in two games vs. the Devils and missed the Nov. 11 loss there with a concussion.
Same Wild lineup tonight, meaning Jordan Schroeder and Christian Folin are scratched.
Nino Niederreiter, who is playing through a groin injury it appears, will be on the Mikko Koivu and Chris Stewart line. Koivu, producing nightly before these trades, has no points in the past seven games as Yeo continue to try to find a left wing to play with these guys.
Personally, I think he needs to put more of a speed element there and with Jason Zucker hurt, maybe he should try Justin Fontaine, or yes, Schroeder. Obviously, both would have to play their off wings for that to happen unless Stewart has the ability to play his off wing.
Sean Bergenheim, scoreless in six games and minus-3, is on the fourth line with Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak and Fontaine is up on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Thomas Vanek.
Bergenheim and Yeo had a good talk on the ice this morning where Bergenheim just nodded his head and took in everything Yeo was saying. No doubt, the rope could be dwindling for Bergenheim, who was a healthy scratch in Florida for two weeks and was acquired a week before the deadline probably only because GM Chuck Fletcher could have no clue then that he would get in on Chris Stewart 15 minutes before the deadline a week later.
“I think that line can help him in a lot of ways identity-wise as far as getting to his game,” Yeo said. “I do feel he came here and things got off to a pretty good start, but the puck didn’t go in the net. And since then, I feel he has been pressing and forcing some plays in some of things that he needs to do to be effective in his role.”
So Yeo wants him to get back to a simpler approach and make sure he’s strong on the wall and making sure he’s moving pucks ahead, playing in the offensive zone and going to the net.
Bergenheim said, “I need to find my game. It wasn’t a negative meeting with Mike on the ice. I know myself how I can play and I haven’t been playing that way. I think I’m maybe trying too much. I’ve been making plays that I never really make, so I need to go find my game. That’s what I’m working on. I wasn’t playing in Florida for a little while, so I just have to find my groove. I’m happy to be here. There’s another level for me to help this team. I’m aware of it, I’m working on it.”
The next spot from the fourth line is the fifth line, which is the press box. Schroeder, though disappointed because he was playing well, continues to remain patient as he’ll be scratched for the third time in fifth games tonight. He was scheduled to be scratched in Washington, but Niederreiter didn’t play because of what I mentioned above. He was scheduled to be scratched in Raleigh, but Vanek got sick.
This will be Schroeder’s second scratch in a row.
Remember also, Bergenheim’s production (just check his career stats) usually comes in the playoffs and that’s one thing the Wild said when it acquired him.
Of course, who knows if he plays a lot if the Wild makes the playoffs because forwards Ryan Carter, Matt Cooke and Jason Zucker could all be back by then.
Yeo says Carter is the closest to returning (maybe a few weeks), Cooke not too far after that. Zucker has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and “we’ll get a better sense of how far away he is. But I would say at a minimum he’s still probably a month away.”
Zucker was on the ice today shooting pucks and the appointment is to get an x-ray and make sure the collarbone is healing properly.
Defenseman Marco Scandella will miss his fifth consecutive game tonight and Yeo indicated he’ll be out through the weekend. He has some sort of oblique or rib issue, I believe, and hasn’t been able to rip pucks yet.
“We want him back right now, but we want to make sure we get him back and he’s able to play at the level we need him to. We have healthy bodies right now,” Yeo said.
Former Wild winger Martin Havlat, who likes to light up his old team, will be scratched for the 10th time in 11 games. The Devils scribes say Havlat’s not talking to the media right now.
Matt Dumba, who put a dent in Semyon Varlamov’s shoulder last game, has done the same thing to Dubnyk twice now in the past week. He got Dubnyk in the right shoulder at the morning skate in Washington and the left shoulder today. Both were scary moments.
The kid’s got a ridiculous shot and even Wild players say pucks fly off his stick so fast and so oddly that he’s very hard to deflect.
Dumba joked that he’s superstitious and tries to get his goalie now every morning skate, but then said seriously, “I should smarten up. I know you can’t do that.”
Dubnyk, who adores Dumba, told him 50 times to stop beating himself up.
“He can hit the puck. He’s got an incredible shot. I’m fine. I told him the only thing he can do now for me is to stop worrying about it. It’s not a big deal.”
Dubnyk said of Dumba’s shot, “Oh, it’s hard. If you watch me, I can usually catch most of them or at least get a glove on it. But he’s hitting those things pretty good. I mean, you saw last game. One fell victim to it that wasn’t me last game.”
Dubnyk said with today’s chest protectors, even if it hits the pads, there’s spaces up there that you’re going to feel it. Varlamov had a black puck mark on his white sweater the other night.
“They hurt,” Dubnyk said. “He’s such a good kid. We’re pretty good buddies. I told him to stop worrying about it, stop apologizing. My arm’s already dead.”
Dubnyk said he and Dumba grew up in the same Calgary neighborhood, but “I’m like 100 years older than him.”
Dubnyk also said it’s time the Wild stops looking at the standings: “If we win our games, it doesn’t matter what happens anywhere else.”