OTTAWA – After watching defenseman Matt Dumba operate last season and make the most impact he has ever had offensively on the Wild, coach Bruce Boudreau believed Dumba could accomplish much more.
“He’s a potential 20-goal scorer on defense,” Boudreau said.
Dumba wasn’t on pace to reach that benchmark entering Tuesday’s tilt against the Senators but after a three-goal outburst over his previous two games in which he accounted for all the team’s offense, the 23-year-old certainly has the chance to surpass the 11 he scored last season and set a new career-high — a jump that would continue his emergence as an offensive threat from the back end.
“Hopefully he’ll continue to do what he’s doing,” Boudreau said.
Filling the net with pucks isn’t new for Dumba; he scored 15, 20 and 16 goals in consecutive years in juniors with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, and his offensive instincts have become more and more noticeable in his time with the Wild.
Finding a balance between creating plays without making the Wild vulnerable defensively is key, and while not every rush up ice pays off, it’s clear Dumba has a nose for the net.
What seems to be helping him produce lately is execution; Dumba’s registered just six more shots in his past 17 games compared to his initial 16, but he’s tallied all six of his goals in that latter chunk of the season to boast a solid 11.5 shooting percentage.
“My dad always said, ‘They come in bunches,’ ” Dumba said.
“So I’m going to try to keep it going here.”
And as far as scoring 20 goals in a season, Dumba is of the same mind-set as Boudreau.
“That’d be awesome,” he said.
“That’s pretty hard to do in this league, but I believe I could if things go the right way. That’s pretty elite status and hopefully one day.”
The Wild’s penalty kill carried an impressive 19-for-19 streak into Tuesday’s game, a run that points to the unit’s prowess while shorthanded but also may help explain why the offense has sputtered.
Over the four-game stretch in which the PK has shined, the forwards have managed just three goals.
“We got good penalty killers,” Boudreau said. “The problem is we’re using a lot of penalty killers that are offensive players, too. It’s like playing in your own zone for 30 seconds, and then asking them to score. Once you get it out of your zone, you’re changing. When you’re averaging five penalties a game over the last seven games, it’s tough to win.”
Entering Tuesday, the Wild had been shorthanded 129 times (tied for second most in the NHL), while boasting only 94 power plays (tied for third fewest).
“It’s hard to score goals when your best players are a little too tired from killing,” Boudreau said. “So we gotta stay out of the box.”
A leaguewide roster freeze went into effect at 10:59 p.m. Central Tuesday and won’t be lifted until 11:01 p.m. Dec. 27.
During this window, teams are prohibiting from trading, waiving or loaning players to the minors.
Teams, however, can recall players, and players on the roster under emergency conditions before Dec. 19 may be returned — among other exceptions.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk will rejoin the Wild in Florida where the team’s road trip wraps up with games Friday and Saturday against the Panthers and Lightning, respectively.
Boudreau said Dubnyk, who has missed the past four games because a lower-body injury that a source said is a knee injury, probably will get on the ice Thursday.