Goalies Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson were two of the 18 players assigned to the Iowa Wild on Tuesday, and now it’ll be interesting to see how coach Kurt Kleinendorst divides up the ice time.
There’s only one net.
As always when an organization has two up-and-coming minor league netminders, it’s difficult to balance riding the No. 3 goalie (Kuemper) with the potential of No. 4 (Gustafsson) getting stale.
Kleinendorst says he has had preliminary talks with Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher, Iowa GM Jim Mill and goalie coach Bob Mason. The objective, he says, is making sure Kuemper is always ready to step into Minnesota’s lineup if Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding are hurt.
“We always know No. 3 has to be ready,” Kleinendorst said. “So No. 3 ultimately has to be ready for the call, which means No. 4 is going to have to develop but in a more patient manner.
“Once we get into the meat of the season, it won’t be so difficult because you’re playing so many games. But when the schedule is light like ours is early, it’s more of a challenge.”
As of now, both Kuemper, 23, the Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year in 2011, and Gustafsson, 21, Sweden’s goalie when it won gold at the 2012 world junior championships and the 2012 Swedish Elite League Rookie of the Year, will split time in Iowa.
If it ever gets to the point where Iowa rides Kuemper, the Wild could opt to send Gustafsson to Orlando of the East Coast Hockey League for ice time. The Wild did that a few years ago with Kuemper when Matt Hackett was getting the majority of starts.
“Kuemps has to play. We all know that,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Kuemper got in six games for the Wild last season, going 1-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. In 47 minutes this preseason, Kuemper was perfect in two games, stopping all 18 shots he saw.
There are 25 stalls in the Wild’s locker room, one too few to accommodate everyone still on the Wild’s training-camp roster.
Being the 19-year-old rookie, defenseman Matt Dumba has been given a temporary stall with a folding chair right between veterans Backstrom and Dany Heatley.
“[Backstrom] and Heater gave me the boundaries. I’m confined to a little cube,” Dumba said, smiling.
Dumba has a shot at making the opening-night roster because he either has to play in Minnesota or return to his Western Hockey League team in Red Deer, Alberta.
He said he feels a lot more comfortable now than after last year’s condensed weeklong camp.
“Last year was bang-bang. Everything happened so quick,” Dumba said.