Wild coach Mike Yeo said he hasn't made a decision yet, but goalie Darcy Kuemper might finally get the opportunity he's been waiting days for Saturday in St. Louis.
Kuemper, the backup to starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, has seen action in two games this season. He stopped 35 of 37 shots in the Wild's 2-1 overtime loss at Anaheim Oct. 16. Sunday at Winnipeg, he got the start. But, after giving up four goals on 18 shots, Kuemper was pulled midway through the second period with the Wild down 4-1.
He has been waiting for a week for another chance.
With his team playing on back-to-back nights starting with Friday's 5-4 victory over Chicago at Xcel Energy Center, there is a good chance Kuemper will get the start Saturday at St. Louis.
Kuemper said he would relish the opportunity. "Definitely, it's always nice to play," he said after Friday's morning skate. "I've felt good in practice yesterday and today. So I'm looking for my next opportunity. Whether it's tomorrow or somewhere else on the schedule, I'll be ready.''
A starting goalie usually doesn't have to wait long to put a difficult game behind him. But a backup? It can take some time, which offers plenty of time to stew over a subpar game. Kuemper said he spent a lot of time with goaltenders coach Bob Mason looking at film of that loss in Winnipeg.
"It was kind of a tough situation," Kuemper said. "We hadn't practiced in two days, so I hadn't really been on the ice. So my footwork and everything were pretty good. Just tracking [the puck] was a little off. Maybe that was because of a lack of ice time. … I didn't feel like my game was that bad watching it over again. So I have to keep building and be ready for the next game.''
Kuemper said he looked at the film, then made a list of things to work on over the last few days.
"I've been feeling good," he said. "I felt great today. So, like I said, I'll be ready for my next opportunity.''
Friday's game was the Wild's first against the Chicago team that pushed the Wild out of the playoffs the past three seasons, a matchup ripe with emotion.
Saturday should be just as dramatic.
The Wild has already played — and beaten — the Blues, the team the Wild eliminated in the first round of last season's playoffs. But Saturday's game at the Scottrade Center will mark the Wild's first game in St. Louis since a 4-1 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
That victory gave the Wild a 3-2 edge in the series; Minnesota closed it out two days later.
Conference games are extra important anyway. Add the rematch element. And then consider the tight nature of the Central Division, where the top four teams have the top four records in the Western Conference.
Entering Friday's games, six of the seven division teams were in the top eight in the conference, and just four points separated Chicago, sixth in the division, with first-place Dallas.
"You get more excited for a game when it's like that," The Wild's Charlie Coyle said.
• Because of the Gophers-Michigan game, the Wild's game at St. Louis on Saturday will be carried on 107.9 FM on the radio, as well as on Fox Sports North.
• Single-game tickets will go on sale Tuesday for the Wild's Stadium Series game with Chicago on Feb. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium.