Darcy Kuemper continues to do everything he can to alleviate any concerns the suits upstairs may have with the Wild’s goaltending down the stretch.
We’ve learned the last two months the rookie’s feeling confident when he flashes the leather after a big save. That’s what he did after gloving down Mike Richards’ shootout attempt in a 39-save victory at L.A. – the game that started this remarkable run from the Sunshine Kid – and that’s what he did on a Taylor Hall blast in the second period tonight.
It wasn’t as pronounced. But look closely, and it was clear as day to see.
Kuemper made 21 saves for his second career shutout during the Wild’s 3-0 blanking of the Oilers.
Check out the gamer for the details, but the Wild defended well, took hits to make plays and got the puck north for the majority of the game. Kuemper didn’t have to make a bunch of huge saves, but his biggest on Jordan Eberle in the second – a point-blank one-timer to his right – preserved a 1-0 lead.
Shortly after, Erik Haula set up Stephane Veilleux for the Wild’s second goal.
The Wild’s now five up on Dallas for the top wildcard spot and six up on 10th-place Vancouver, Friday’s opponent. Coach Mike Yeo said Kuemper will start that game. He is 9-2-2 in his past 14 starts with a 2.02 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
Mikael Granlund, whom Yeo said this morning has a chance to do something special these final 22 games, scored two minutes into the game off a nice feed from Zach Parise. He did get banged up twice, once when he took a puck to the left cheek, the other when he was checked by Nick Schultz and looked to fall into another Oiler. Athletic therapist Don Fuller worked on him a bunch after that shift and was with him in the locker room after.
Granlund said afterward cunningly that he didn’t know what I was talking about and he’s OK.
Two guys also banged up tonight?
Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner.
Prosser, 12 seconds into his first shift and 54 seconds into the game, was hit from behind by Blaine’s Matt Hendricks, who was a physical menace all game. Somehow no penalty was called on the blatant boarding major. Kyle Brodziak immediately challenged him thought, which resulted in a 4-on-4 that led to Granlund's goal. So it worked out.
Prosser said he got his “bell rung” and took stitches to the chin, but while he was lost for the rest of the first period, he returned to start the second and had an assist on Veilleux's goal.
“I knew he was coming,” said Prosser, whose wife is days from giving birth to their second child. “I knew it was Hendricks and he finishes his hits. But I’m digging the puck out. I expect a little rubout or something, but he full-fledged put me into the glass.”
Clayton Stoner’s injury was, as Yeo said, “gruesome” looking. While either grabbing the jersey of Luke Gazdic in a fight or having his finger punched by Gazdic as he reached (Stoner didn’t know), Stoner’s left ring finger dislocated. Screen captures on Twitter (check out @randball) showed his finger facing east.
I would have been lost for weeks. Stoner returned in the third after doctors got the finger back in place and he told them to tape his ring finger to his middle finger for support.
“Probably looked worse than it felt,” said Stoner. “I’ve had problems with this finger for three weeks, so I think the tendons are weak and it came out easier than it should of.”
We’ll see if Stoner can play Friday in Vancouver, his home province team so to speak. If he can’t, the Wild has Marco Scandella waiting in the wings. If he can’t play, the Wild has Steve Kampfer or will need to helicopter in Jon Blum.
Keith Ballard, who returns to Vancouver, his former team, for the first time since signing a two-year deal with Minnesota last summer, was plus-3 and was great. His drive to the net helped lead to Granlund’s goal.
I thought Jared Spurgeon had a great game. Assist, three blocked shots for the Edmonton native. Charlie Coyle was good defensively and offensively. Dany Heatley scored a goal in front of the fans who just love him so.
Lots of good efforts from Wild players. Now on to Vancouver for a big game Friday. I’m staring a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call in the face. Talk to you from one of the best stops in the league Friday.