Just three games into the Wild's season, Darcy Kuemper will make his first start against a team he has had success against.
Against the Los Angeles Kings, Kuemper is 2-1-1 in five games with a 1.82 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and a shutout.
"It wouldn't have mattered if he was 0-18, he was playing tonight," coach Bruce Boudreau said.
In fact, Devan Dubnyk has also been successful against the Kings, who despite their firepower always seem to have trouble scoring. In fact, they have three goals in two winless games this season.
But Boudreau, who traditionally starts his No. 1 between 55-57 games, said he doesn't want Kuemper to get stale and frankly may need him to start this weekend with the Wild playing back-to-back at New Jersey and the Islanders.
Kuemper had a very tough preseason debut in Winnipeg, but he was good in Colorado. He was beaten twice on defensive breakdowns by the same forwards on consecutive shifts.
"He’s always been a good goalie here," Boudreau said. "He just happens to be behind a guy that plays 60 games a year. We want to give him a chance. I thought the one game in Colorado he was pretty good. He gave up two goals, but I think neither one was his fault. He’s worked hard in practice and you want to get the guys into the games early. You don’t want to let them sit for a month and then say, 'Go win one for ya,' so he’s getting his opportunity now."
Here's the story I wrote today on Zach Parise, who's a goal from becoming the third Minnesota-born 300-goal scorer. Some good anecdotes in there.
Same Wild lineup, meaning
Marco Scandella, whom I campaigned to be on the power play for years, is finally getting that chance under Boudreau.
That's one big reason Mike Reilly was sent to the minors to play for Iowa tonight against Grand Rapids.
"He’s got a great shot, and I think once he starts to get a little more comfortable on the power play, if he gets that shot through, a lot of times it’s not going to be stopped," Boudreau said of Scandella. "When you have a guy that can really shoot the puck on the point, it sort of makes the other team a little bit leery about getting out there and blocking them."
As Boudreau mentioned, it's a matter of Scandella practicing. He hasn't played fulltime power play since his Houston days, so he has got to get used to making decisions under pressure. He's had a couple boo boos he'll get out of his game, like in Colorado when he skated into pressure and turned the puck over, causing Dumba to take a penalty, and the other night when he sprawled out to keep a puck in.
Boudreau doesn't think it'll take a ton of practice. "These guys are NHL guys. They should pick things up pretty quick. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to do any of the stuff. It’s the under the pressure during the games. In practice, he rips them. He doesn’t want to make a mistake, so he’s taking a little more time [than he'll take in a month]."
The big question is if Scandella winds up on and off the power play depending if Reilly's on the roster. If Reilly's on the roster, it makes no sense not to have him be on the power play. So that would likely be in Scandella's spot.
Reilly, as I mentioned on yesterday's blog, could be up and down a lot depending on whether he's going to play.
In fact, it wouldn't shock me if Reilly is recalled tomorrow or Friday.
"We won play last game, [Iowa] plays tonight, so we pretty well knew we were going with the same lineup tonight," said Boudreau, meaning Folin would play. "You don’t want young guys sitting when you have the opportunity to have them play. It’s only a few hours down the road."
Boudreau said initially there's probably a good chance of Reilly going back and forth, but "In the end it’ll be his play that’ll dictate where he is."
Reilly has to work to get more efficient in the defensive zone. He gets running around a lot and on the Alex Steen goal in St. Louis, it was Reilly not catching the puck a minute before the goal, then losing his battle to the net with his man (I think it was Fabbri).
"I think he just has to be stronger on the man, stronger on the puck," Boudreau said. "His offensive game is really quite good. He’s got a great offensive mind, but like any young defenseman – and this is not just Mike, it’s any young defenseman in the NHL -- it takes you a good couple hundred games to learn how to play defense. Him not being the biggest guy, he’s got to learn his angles and how he’s going to keep guys away from the front of the net."
Joel Eriksson Ek had a flight from Ottawa to Toronto yesterday that was canceled, then he had multiple flight delays. He arrived in Minneapolis last night, had to pack and check out of the hotel, get his equipment and take a car to Des Moines. He arrived in the wee hours of the morning, so depending on how he feels determines if he'll make his Iowa debut tonight.
The question is how long is he there. Does he play and come up to start practicing with Minnesota, or does he play even this weekend for Iowa and then debut later in the upcoming four-game road trip for Minnesota.
Remember, he hasn't practiced in some time, so it's to be determined.
Jeff Zatkoff, injured Jonathan Quick's backup, looks to be starting vs. the Wild. He is 1-1 against the Wild with a 3.00 goals-against average and .870 save percentage. He had a couple good runs with Pittsburgh.
I'll be NHL Network at 4:10 p.m. CT.
Reminder: Star Tribune Fans Night Out is Thursday. Package includes a Wild-Maple Leafs lower level ticket, a pregame Q and A with Wes Walz and I, all-you-can-eat concessions and a gift. To get your ticket, go to this link.