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Wild backup Stalock to start in goal Thursday vs. Devils

Starter Devan Dubnyk has had control of the Wild’s crease for more than two weeks, rattling off six straight starts.

But his run is about to end, as the Wild will tab backup Alex Stalock to face the Devils Thursday in Newark when the team’s three-game road trip continues.

 

 

“We have to have both goalies playing well,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Plus, we have to play well in front of both goalies. Recently, we haven’t played very well in front of Alex. He tries his heart out, and we don’t give him some support so hopefully tomorrow that’ll change.”

This will be Stalock’s first start since Feb. 3 when he surrendered four goals on 29 shots in two periods to the Stars in Dallas. Stalock was pulled after the second period, absorbing the eventual 6-1 loss to stand 8-9-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

In two career starts against New Jersey, Stalock is 1-1 with a 3.51 goals-against average and .877 save percentage. He and the rest of the team was on the ice Wednesday for practice after a day off Tuesday.

The forward lines were:

Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Tyler Ennis-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter

Zach Parise-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle

Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik/Chris Stewart

Thursday is the first half of a back-to-back, with the Wild concluding its road trip Friday in New York against the Rangers. Backups tend to receive the second game of back-to-backs, but Boudreau acknowledged that’s not always fair to the backup.

And although the team hasn’t played since Monday when it posted a 5-3 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn, it certainly started the road swing off with a dose of positive momentum that could help it when it resumes action against the Devils.

“Hopefully we’re building off our energy off the last game,” Boudreau said, “and [Stalock] reaps the benefits.”

Wild ready to return to road for three-game trip

After completing its second-longest homestand of the season with six out of a possible 10 points, a showing that kept the Wild in the mix for a wild-card berth in the Western Conference, the team returns to the road for a three-game set in New York and New Jersey.

“I think we're due to go on the road,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I personally don't like to have seven, eight, nine, 10 games at home. I think you get stale, but five is a good number.”

 

 

Before departing for New York, the Wild practiced Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. Center Matt Cullen was the only player missing from the session, as he took a maintenance day. Defenseman Jonas Brodin remains sidelined as he recovers from hand surgery, but Boudreau said Brodin has been skating and was handling the puck Sunday.

“That’s really good news,” Boudreau said.

The Wild’s trip starts Monday with another matinee game against the Islanders in Brooklyn; Boudreau said Sunday he thought goalie Devan Dubnyk would start that game but backup Alex Stalock would get a game during the week “in all likelihood.”

This road swing does include a back-to-back at its conclusion, with the Wild visiting the Devils Thursday before stopping by Madison Square Garden Friday for a date with the Rangers. But before then, the Wild will have the opportunity to bank rest and practice time – two valuable commodities this time of the season.

“If you look at our team, we’ve got I think it’s eight players 30 years or older,” Boudreau said. “I think rest is going to be good as long as they rest.”

Although the Wild will face only Eastern Conference teams on this trip, the urgency that’s headlined its recent battles with Western Conference rivals should still surface in these games.

The Devils and Islanders are vying for the East’s wild-card spots, while the Rangers proved to be a competitive bunch during their recent 3-2 loss to the Wild.

“Every game is big,” Boudreau said. “Every single game I think from here on in is going to be like this. It's a grind for an awful lot of teams, and it’s going to be a battle of attrition. I think whichever team can handle it the best is going to succeed.”

Final, 2/19 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 32-20-7 1 3 1 5
NY Islanders 29-26-6 1 2 0 3

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