Young goalie Kuemper plays well in tough spot for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2013 - 10:55 PM
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Darcy Kuemper makes a save during the first period against Vancouver.

Photo: Jonathan Hayward, Associated Press - Ap

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VANCOUVER - There are a lot easier places to make your NHL debut as a goaltender than Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

Not only are you facing the explosive Canucks in front of a hostile crowd, but the pregame festivities are so loud and rowdy, you'd think you're in a Vancouver nightclub rather than a hockey rink.

It would have been easy for Darcy Kuemper to get rattled Tuesday. That's what makes what Roberto Luongo did so neat. As Kuemper stretched at the red line before warmups, the Canucks veteran goaltender parked next to Kuemper and congratulated him.

"[Luongo] tapped me on the pad and said, 'Good luck, play your game,'" Kuemper said. "It helped calm me down, so that was awesome of him. He's one guy I've been watching the past five, six years trying to emulate his game, so it was pretty cool."

Kuemper, a bubbly 22-year-old drafted in the sixth round in 2009, flew to Vancouver on Monday but didn't find out he was starting for Josh Harding until Tuesday morning. It was not an easy situation with the Wild playing the second of back-to-backs, but Kuemper looked calm, played the puck well and stopped 28 of 30 shots in a 2-1 loss.

He said maybe the coolest moment was denying Daniel Sedin's partial breakaway.

"That's probably something I'll remember for a long time against such a good player," Kuemper said. "It's pretty surreal playing against guys you've been watching as a fan. It's a childhood dream come true.

"Just to get your feet wet and see that you can play at that level, it gives you so much more to strive for. Obviously I've got a lot to work on, but I know I can hang in there. So it's just about trying to get better and stay here full-time."

Offense dries up

Early in the season when the Wild wasn't scoring, at least top players Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley were.

But with the Wild having scored only one regulation goal in each of the past six games, the trio has completely dried up heading into Thursday's game against Colorado.

Parise, who scored five goals and nine points in his first five games, has one goal and no assists in the past eight. Koivu, who scored two goals and eight points in his first six games, has no goals and one assist in the past seven. Heatley, who scored four goals and six points in his first five games, has no points in the eight since.

Wild coach Mike Yeo reunited the snakebit first-liners in the second half of Tuesday's game in an attempt to spark the trio and the team.

"We have to get our power play going," Yeo said. "For players like that, that's where offense comes from a lot. ... They've had plenty of chances, but the results haven't been there for them."

Granlund steps up

Rookie center Mikael Granlund arguably had his best game in the NHL Tuesday.

While there were still moments of indecision and foiled chances, times where he skated offside or was kicked out of the faceoff circle, he created plays, was physical and strong defensively.

Granlund had his fourth point in 12 games with an assist on Devin Setoguchi's second-period goal, the first power-play point of Granlund's career. He also won nine of 12 faceoffs.

"That was a hard game, a heavy game," Yeo said. "[The Canucks] don't give you a lot of free ice out there. He's learning how to create here compared to the way he had to create growing up [in Finland]. It's a different game. He keeps improving. He's a character kid and he cares."

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