Wild notes: Current lineup has no room for Fontaine

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT
  • Star Tribune
  • March 15, 2014 - 12:37 AM

Though Justin Fontaine has 12 goals this season, tied for fourth-most among the Wild’s forwards, the rookie has been a healthy scratch for the past four games. Coach Mike Yeo said that string is likely to continue Saturday when the Wild plays Columbus, but not because of anything Fontaine has done.

Yeo said Friday that the defined roles of other players have solidified the lineup, leaving no room for Fontaine. The rookie has played in 54 of the Wild’s 66 games this season and has 18 points.

“We’re going to need our fourth line to play, and we’re going to need them to eat up minutes,’’ Yeo said. “We’ve got [Dany Heatley], who’s playing on the power play. We’ve got [Erik] Haula and [Cody] McCormick, both key guys on the penalty kill.

“Unfortunately for [Fontaine], he wouldn’t factor in on either one of those right now. We do want to get him in the lineup, but at the same time, we’ve got guys in roles right now, so we have to approach it that way.’’

Record for Kuemper

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper has developed a reputation this season for quickly shrugging off poor performances. He did so again this week — and set a record in the process — when he followed a subpar start Tuesday with a 2-1 victory Thursday over the New York Rangers.

Kuemper stopped 29 shots, including 16 in the third period, to earn his 12th victory this season. That broke Josh Harding’s franchise record for most victories by a rookie goaltender.

Yeo said the ability to forget about a bad night is what separates elite goaltenders from the merely good ones, and he believes Kuemper’s extensive junior and minor league hockey experience helped him learn that. “In junior hockey, they play a schedule that’s similar in the amount of games they play and how up and down a season can be,’’ he said. “Also, spending the time in the [AHL], for a player like that, that’s a big help.’’

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