DALLAS – The Wild signed longtime NHL veteran Brett Clark on March 13 to add depth to the blue line. The Wild began a seven-game winning streak the next night.
Clark has yet to make his Wild debut, but he understands fully why coach Mike Yeo has been hesitant to mess with a winning lineup.
“You always wish to go on these big streaks. Your team’s having success and that’s all you’re here for and what you want,” said Clark, 36, who has played 681 games for four teams. “It’s fun to see how the team’s thriving, whether I’m playing or not. To see the level in practice elevate during this streak has been awesome.
“I’m having a blast every time I come in and am working hard. That’s all I can do — support the team and wait for my opportunity.”
That chance could come Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. In the second of back-to-backs, Yeo may want fresh legs and have Clark replace left-shot defenseman Justin Falk.
Yeo said there’s “definitely a possibility” Clark plays.
Asked if he’s worried Clark has gotten rusty by having such a long hiatus since playing his last game for AHL Oklahoma City, Yeo said, “The good thing is this guy has played a lot of hockey in his career. If it was a younger player, I think it’d be a different story. It is a priority of ours to get him in very soon.
“We’ll also be a little understanding of the fact that he hasn’t playing in a long time. His first shift, if he’s less than perfect, we’re not going to judge him on that.”
After what many felt was a tough game for Falk and Tom Gilbert in Wednesday’s win over Phoenix, some wondered if Yeo might dress Clark and Nate Prosser on Friday in Dallas.
But Yeo said while Falk and Gilbert could play better, he only charged them with two scoring chances against after reviewing the tape.
Rest for Backstrom
For the first time in 13 games, Niklas Backstrom wasn’t between the pipes for the Wild. The Wild left him in Minnesota to rest up for Saturday’s game against Los Angeles.
“We’ve been riding him hard,” Yeo said. “To not have to travel, first it’s well-deserved. Second, he could use it.”
Backstrom is tied for the NHL lead with 18 wins (the next win matches his total from last season) and is 15-3-1 in 19 games since Feb. 9.
“This stretch has been so important to our team, and he has been so good,” Yeo said. “[He’s] just a goalie going out and winning hockey games. To me, that’s the most important stat.”
In Dallas, Matt Hackett made his season debut for the Wild with Darcy Kuemper serving as backup. The Wild will likely reassign Kuemper to Houston and recall a forward.