After a busy schedule last week that included the sixth back-to-back of the season, the Wild is settling into a rhythm during a four-game homestand since at least one off-day precedes each matchup.
But loading up on practice time during those lulls may not be the solution that helps goalie Devan Dubnyk after a tough run of losses lately.
“Unplugging is a big part of it,” Dubnyk said. “You come [to the rink] for the time you’re here and go do something else. As long as you’re doing the things that you know you need to do to be comfortable and be prepared, there’s no point in thinking any more about it. Obviously, everything gets thought about more when the results aren’t there. That’s part of the game, but it’s our job to do the obvious.”
Practice isn’t futile. A goalie can certainly use those sessions to fine-tune skills.
“There’s a benefit to it,” Dubnyk explained. “It’s good to get out there and have fun and battle sometimes. Obviously, the plays you get in practice are usually high-percentage plays so you just go out there and battle. It’s good to go out and have fun.”
There are other options available to a goalie during the downtime.
Aside from shifting gears to focus on family, watching video is a resourceful tool. So is the rapport Dubnyk has with goaltending coach Bob Mason, who acts as a teacher, friend and “disciplinarian at times,” Mason said.
“It’s pretty valuable,” Mason said. “I can share some of that knowledge and just try to keep him in his lane.”
Before Dubnyk tackled the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, he and Mason reviewed his performance Friday in which he was yanked after surrendering three goals on six shots in a 7-2 loss in Edmonton.
Mason tends to remind Dubnyk what he’s doing well and what he should keep an eye out for from the evening’s opponent, underscoring the mental awareness that goalies never quite turn off.
“You’re never ever going to quit doing the little things until you hang the skates up,” Mason said. “You’ve got to repeat, repeat, repeat and keep thing sharp because they can go crooked if you don’t watch it.”
Familiar faces, new places
With captain Mikko Koivu sidelined by a lower-body injury, winger Luke Kunin made his season debut with the Wild against the Canadiens.
Charlie Coyle slid over from wing to center, lining up between wingers Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter.
“It’s not something he’s not used to,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Coyle.
“He actually skates much more when he’s at center, which we like. It was an easy move to put him back up the middle.
“Big bodies like to skate, to keep going, and he’s a big guy that when he’s I the middle, he’s doing a lot more skating. He seems to be a lot more involved.”
The Wild also made a tweak on defense, reuniting its previous top-two pairings. Ryan Suter was back with Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin skated alongside Jared Spurgeon.
“We haven’t been too successful,” Boudreau said. “When things aren’t going right, you have to make changes.”
Kunin skated alongside winger Jordan Greenway, which was a reunion of sorts for the two.
Greenway remembers playing against Kunin when he was 14 years old working out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and eventually they both joined the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
“I’ve been with him for a while,” Greenway said. “It’s good that he’s back with us. I played with him a bunch, and we got pretty close for a while. So it’s good to have him back in the apartment with me and back on the ice.”