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Boudreau's lineup changes pay off for Wild in win over Devils

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t give himself a pat on the back, but he sure made the right decisions when it came to assembling his lineup Thursday.

He subbed in winger Chris Stewart, defenseman Mike Reilly and backup goalie Alex Stalock, and all played key roles in a 4-2 win over the Devils at Prudential Center – the Wild’s second on a three-game trip that concludes Friday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers and third road win overall.

 

 

“We got a lot of guys in the same way, so there’s no reason sometimes that one guys sits out for another guy because you’re a team of 22,” Boudreau said. “We play it as a team of 22 right now. That’s what happens.”

Stewart scored the game-winning off a two-on-one rush in the second period, the team’s third goal that wiped out a two-goal deficit. His line, with center Joel Eriksson Ek and winger Daniel Winnik, was solid all game and responsible for two goals; Eriksson Ek scored just 39 seconds before Stewart when he slid in a puck that reached the front of the net after a strong effort by Winnik to cut to the middle.

“I thought about pulling up, but I felt like I had body position and I saw Eker beat his guy to the net and did a great job just putting his stick on the ice,” Winnik said. “I tried to get it over there for him."

Reilly stoked the comeback when he converted the Wild’s first goal on a seeing-eye shot earlier in the second. Add in 38 saves by Stalock, who was making his first start in almost three weeks, and the Wild certainly found the right formula to ensure this road trip is a success.

“He’s got a good feel for the game,” Stewart said of Boudreau. “He’s a players’ coach, and he knows what’s going on out there.”

Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s win over the Devils.

  • After snapping his 50-game slump Monday in the 5-3 win over the Islanders, Eriksson Ek scored another goal Thursday.

It marked the first time in his career he’s scored in consecutive games.

“You get that goose egg broken here – he’s not going to be a 50-goal scorer – but at the same time, like he did last year, he’s going to chip in an awful lot more now I think,” Boudreau said.

Prudential Center seems to suit Eriksson Ek. He also scored his first career goal in New Jersey in his NHL debut.

"Maybe I can keep that going next time," he said.

  • Defenseman Nick Seeler continues to impress with his play in his own end.

He logged 18 minutes, 40 seconds – the most since he debuted earlier this month – and remained on the second pairing next to Jared Spurgeon, who missed a chunk of the second period after getting cut in the mouth but returned for the third.

“You look at the Islanders game, too, he was playing top-four minutes most of the game,” Stalock said. “Conditioning with that kid isn't an issue. He's in unbelievable shape. He's strong. He's tough. He's playing great for us. The way he plays guys are going to start thinking twice about going to the front of the net.”

This was a memorable game for Seeler for another reason, as he tallied his first career point – an assist on Stewart’s goal.

“When you play with confidence, you play better. I mean, you’re not worried about making a mistake and sitting on the end of the bench," Boudreau said. "That’s what’s happening to him right now.”

  • Despite a stout showing by Stalock, No.1 Devan Dubnyk will get the start Friday against the Rangers, Boudreau said.

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.

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.”

Projected lineup:

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

Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba

Nick Seeler-Jared Spurgeon

Gustav Olofsson-Nate Prosser

Alex Stalock

Key numbers:

899: Career points for center Eric Staal.

3-2-1: The Wild's record in its last six road games.

3: Goals in winger Jason Zucker's last two games.

5: Points in seven career games against the Devils for winger Zach Parise.

4-1: New Jersey's record in its last five games.

About the Devils:

New Jersey holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and is just two points behind Philadelphia for the third seed in the Metropolitan Division. Winger Taylor Hall has been a key catalyst for the Devils. He leads the team in goals (25), assists (38) and points (63). Twenty-seven of those points have come during a 19-game point streak for Hall. Rookie Nico Hischier is also enjoying a successful season, with 13 goals and 40 points. Hischier is the reigning NHL first star of the week after posting four goals and seven points in four games last week.

Final, 2/22 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 33-20-7 0 3 1 4
New Jersey 31-22-8 1 1 0 2

NHL Scoreboard

  • Minnesota

    New Jersey

     

    - F

    4

    2

  • Columbus

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • NY Islanders

    Toronto

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • Buffalo

    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    2

  • Washington

    Florida

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • NY Rangers

    Montreal

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Tampa Bay

    Ottawa

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • San Jose

    Nashville

     

    - F

    1

    7

  • Calgary

    Arizona

     

    - F

    5

    2

  • Colorado

    Edmonton

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • Dallas

    Los Angeles

     

    - End 2nd

    0

    0