Wild notes: Kuemper must be ready, will get most of the work in Iowa

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 26, 2013 - 12:24 AM
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Minnesota Wild's Nino Niederreiter (22) and goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) shut down Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane (9) who tries to shoot a wraparound during third-period preseason NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013.

Photo: John Woods, Associated Press - Ap

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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.

Dumba’s move

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.

“Training camp just flew by in one week. It’s nice to get the feel of things [this year]. I went through [the rookie tournament in] Traverse City, and I think it has really helped me.

“I’ve learned a lot the last couple weeks and hopefully I can apply that to the game.”

Etc.

• Captain Mikko Koivu played Wednesday after the birth of his first child. Koivu’s fiancée, Helena, gave birth to a girl, named Sofie Elizabeth.

• Veteran forward Jason Pominville said his agent and the Wild continue talks toward a contract extension, but he’s doing his best to stay out of it until his agent comes to him with something concrete.

• Jonathon Blum, Brian Connelly, Steve Kampfer, Jon Landry, Carson McMillan, Chad Rau and Stephane Veilleux all cleared waivers Wednesday and were assigned to Iowa.

• The Wild will travel to Duluth for practices Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday’s 10 a.m. practice at AMSOIL Arena is open to the public.

• Owner Craig Leipold said he is looking into replacing the Xcel Energy Center’s center-ice scoreboard with a state-of-the-arts high-definition board.

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