BOSTON – Alex Stalock handled the Wild’s goaltending duties again Saturday, making a third consecutive start while Devan Dubnyk remains away from the team because of a family issue.
But Stalock could be receiving a break this week.
Kaapo Kahkonen, who’s assumed the backup position during Dubnyk’s absence, might make his NHL debut during this three-game road trip.
“I have no problem playing him whenever the opportunity arises,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Boudreau actually has a game in mind for Kahkonen, but he acknowledged his plan could change based on how Stalock performs. After visiting the Rangers Monday in New York, the Wild will be back in action Tuesday in New Jersey before returning home.
Kahkonen was recalled on an emergency basis Wednesday with Dubnyk unavailable and before then, he was 7-2-1 with a .909 save percentage, 2.47 goals-against average and two shutouts for Iowa in the American Hockey League. During one preseason game, he made 18 saves on 20 shots after giving up goals on the game’s first two shots.
“I haven’t heard much about the season, but I’ve seen him play,” Boudreau said. “I’ve seen him play at Traverse City. I’ve seen him play in training camp, and I think he’s a pretty good goaltender. Other than those first two shots against Winnipeg in the preseason, he was outstanding. I think he’s a competitor. He’s one of these guys that’s a gamer.”
This is Kahkonen’s second professional season in North America after previously playing in Finland, and he said he returned for 2019-20 much more comfortable and confident. Overall, through 49 games with Iowa, Kahkonen is 24-16-9 with a .908 save percentage, 2.72 goals-against average and eight shutouts.
“Obviously, you’re going to be ready anytime you get to play — whatever league it is,” Kahkonen said. “That would be really exciting to get my first [NHL] game but right now obviously you try to do your best in practice every day and support the guys and Al and everybody else around the team.”
Play to the whistle
Winger Jason Zucker’s first game-winning goal of the season Thursday in the 3-2 win over the Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center came on a bizarre-looking play.
After goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped a shot by center Eric Staal, he stood up from his crouch but the puck wasn’t covered. It was resting on the goal line, until Zucker crashed the net to poke it in.
“In my head, at first, I thought maybe it went in and came back out and was kind of sitting there by his reaction,” Zucker said. “But Staalsy didn’t celebrate, and the ref didn’t blow the whistle. So it was kind of an odd play, so I just figured I’d dive in there.”
Making a case
When Boudreau showed video Saturday morning of what the Wild has done well, the fourth line received plenty of airtime.
“I went up to them [and] said, ‘I gotta start playing you guys more because you’re in all the positive clips,’ ” Boudreau said.
Only winger Ryan Hartman, who regularly takes shifts on the penalty kill, has logged more than 10 minutes a game since a fourth line featuring him, winger Ryan Donato and center Victor Rask was created in the aftermath of winger Marcus Foligno suffering a lower-body injury on Nov. 7.
“As long as the coach has faith in them, no matter if they play a little or a lot, the coach can put them in situations and believe in them and that’s the way they’re playing right now,” Boudreau said.
Dubnyk is expected to rejoin the Wild on Thursday, when it practices for the first time after the road trip.