Just when it looked like the Wild was inching closer to trimming its injured list, another key player joined the mix — the latest blow to a team that’s been hounded by adversity all season long.
“We’ve handled it so far,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So hopefully we’ll continue to do it.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk suffered a lower-body injury in the 2-1 shootout win over the Flames on Tuesday night, exiting the game after the first period. The team was expecting clarity on Dubnyk’s status after he underwent an MRI scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
“Hopefully, it’s not too bad,” Boudreau said.
Dubnyk was injured in the first period while moving from side to side, but he told Boudreau he could finish the period. He posted 10 saves to keep the Flames scoreless before Alex Stalock took over.
“I saw him [Wednesday] morning. He was walking around pretty good,” Boudreau said. “He said himself that he doesn’t think it’s too bad.”
Although it’s unclear how long Dubnyk might be sidelined, Boudreau believes Dubnyk won’t be available Thursday when the Wild continues its three-game homestand against the Maple Leafs, putting the spotlight on Stalock. The team also would need to make a call-up to fill the No. 2 vacancy, most likely Niklas Svedberg or Steve Michalek from Iowa in the American Hockey League.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Boudreau said of Stalock. “He played almost all the games in Iowa last year. I don’t think the workload would be too much. I think he’d look at it as a challenge. … Four very good offensive teams in the next four games, so we’ll see how he makes out.”
Stalock has backstopped the Wild to its past two wins during a three-game streak, improving to 4-3-1 with a .907 save percentage and 2.93 goals-against average.
“The biggest part is just staying the same,” Stalock said. “I got to continue to work hard in practice and feel confident on the ice, and I think that carries over into the game.”
While Dubnyk was absent from practice Wednesday, defenseman Jared Spurgeon skated with the Wild — for the first time since he went down with a groin strain Nov. 27, an encouraging sign that he’s nearing a return.
“You never want to miss a game,” said Spurgeon, who had 15 points and was averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time before getting hurt. “The thing that’s making it easier is the guys are winning. So you’re able to heal and do the stuff you need. I’m just excited to get back out there and practice with the guys.”
Spurgeon’s injury popped up a week before he missed any action; he got hit in a game and thought he might have suffered a charley horse. Eventually, though, the issue worsened.
But Spurgeon is healing ahead of schedule, since Boudreau said he was initially pegged to be sidelined between four and six weeks.
“I’m sure he’s going to make the Florida trip,” Boudreau said, referring to the team’s upcoming four-game road trip. “I don’t know where he’s going to play along those lines, whether it’s before that or after that. He should be able to, unless he tells us there’s something wrong, be able to play in that situation.”
The Wild has yet to be at full strength this season, with winger Zach Parise still on the mend from back surgery, and the loss of forwards Charlie Coyle (fibula fracture), Mikael Granlund (groin) and Nino Niederreiter (ankle sprain) early in the season no doubt influenced the team’s up-and-down start.
But the Wild has found a way to persevere; since Nov. 9, it’s led the NHL in points with 23 while tying for first in the league in wins amid a 11-4-1 run — a span in which the team missed Coyle and Spurgeon for stretches.
And if the Wild can remain competitive without its full complement of players, there’s hope it can improve even more once everyone is available.
“What I think it says is we’ve got greater character than even we thought,” Boudreau said. “The will to win is there.”