NEWARK, N.J. – The first time goalie Kaapo Kahkonen touched the puck in his NHL debut with the Wild on Tuesday against the Devils at Prudential Center was when he came out of his crease to settle one that rolled into the Wild’s end, pushing it into the trapezoid behind the net for defenseman Ryan Suter to collect.
And that wasn’t the only occasion the 23-year-old left his crease to get more involved in the play, demonstrating a knack he has for handling the puck that even netted him a few goals while he previously played in his native Finland.
“I scored a few there,” Kahkonen said. “Two of them were actually exhibition games, and one was in the playoffs in lower league in Finland.”
That wasn’t Kahkonen’s aim when he took to the ice with the Wild for his first game, becoming the seventh goalie to make his NHL debut with the organization.
Instead, he was trying to assist his teammates by helping them funnel pucks the other way.
“You have to keep it simple,” Kahkonen said.
Although he has experience with the puck on his stick, Kahkonen still wasn’t expecting to be as mobile as fellow netminder Alex Stalock.
“He’s a way better skater,” Kahkonen said. “To get out for pucks, he’s way quicker than me. So, I’m not going to start doing that as much as he does.”
The majority of Wild players average between 44- and 49-second shifts, but most skaters got caught extending their ice time Monday in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers — a trend indicative of the Wild getting pinned in its own zone and not applying pressure at the other end.
Overall, 11 players averaged 50 seconds or more per shift. Winger Mats Zuccarello paced the pack at 59 seconds. And the longest shift of the night belonged to defenseman Jonas Brodin, at 3 minutes, 5 seconds.
During that stretch in the second period, in which the Wild was hemmed in by the Rangers, forwards Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin and defenseman Matt Dumba each logged 2:57. Those players did get a reprieve with an icing, but it wasn’t until Dumba committed a cross-checking penalty that the Wild was able to make a wholesale change.
“We have to do better [with] that,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We talk about it every game and when we’re skating, our shift time is good. When we’re not skating, the shift time is longer. An indicator to me of how we’re playing is the length of the shifts. If you look at [Monday] night’s game after the second period, I think we had 15 guys near a minute-length shift.
“I go in and say, ‘This is why we’ve got two shots on goal [in the second period].’ We aren’t skating, and we’re in our zone the whole time so the shift times are longer. In the third period, we went right down to 40-second shifts again and we had 13 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes.”
Winger Marcus Foligno, who’s been out because of a lower-body injury since Nov. 7, is hoping to practice Thursday, Boudreau said, but defenseman Greg Pateryn has suffered a setback in his recovery from core muscle surgery and “will be a little bit longer.”
As for goalie Devan Dubnyk, who’s been away from the team for the past week as he deals with a family matter, the Wild will get a better read on how soon he can return to action once it resumes practice. Dubnyk is expected to participate in Thursday’s session, but Boudreau said Dubnyk wouldn’t be ready to even be in the backup role Friday when the team hosts the Senators.
“I think he skated once or twice with [skating coach] Andy Ness,” Boudreau said. “But I’m not 100 percent sure.”