CALGARY – The way Alex Stalock views it, if you’re not feeling a little bit of nervous energy every time you’re on the ice, you’re doing it wrong.
The Wild’s backup goaltender made his first start in two weeks Saturday, when he faced Calgary to conclude a pair of back-to-back games in Canada. Coach Bruce Boudreau felt a little bad about starting Stalock under difficult circumstances, with the Wild seeking to end a two-game winless streak while playing on consecutive nights for the first time this season. Stalock considered it “a good challenge,’’ and he was happy to take it on.
“I think pressure is good in every game you play,’’ said Stalock, who stopped 38 of 42 shots in a 5-4 shootout loss at Carolina on Oct. 7. “Every game, whether you’re on a 10-game winning streak or you’re in need of a must-win, you feel pressure to keep the streak going or get out of it. If there’s no pressure going into games, you’re probably not feeling like a professional athlete.’’
Stalock entered Saturday’s game with a goals-against average of 3.75 and save percentage of .905 in his lone appearance. Regular goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who is 1-2-1 this season, has a GAA of 3.80 and a save percentage of .888.
Boudreau said those statistics don’t raise any concerns about Dubnyk’s play.
“All of us that are used to seeing elite playing, when you’re getting average playing, you seem to worry,’’ Boudreau said. “But there are times you go through these things.
“I’m not worried. His past three years have been incredibly good, and I expect him to be incredibly good down the road here.’’
Kids no more
Saturday’s game served as a reunion of sorts for a pair of young forwards from the St. Louis area. The Wild’s Luke Kunin and the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk, both 19, played together for years while they were growing up there and faced each other in an NHL game for the first time.
The two were first-round NHL draft picks in 2016, with the Flames taking Tkachuk sixth overall and the Wild selecting Kunin 15th. Tkachuk, son of retired NHL star Keith Tkachuk, had a sensational rookie season in 2016-17 with 13 goals, 48 points and 105 penalty minutes in 76 games. Kunin, who played his third NHL game Saturday, said he is feeling more comfortable with every shift.
“[Friday at Winnipeg], I went out and had a bunch of confidence,’’ Kunin said. “I made some plays and made things happen. I just want to keep getting better each time I get on the ice.’’
Kunin has been getting some advice from Tkachuk about adapting to the league. He anticipated there would be some friendly trash talk Saturday with his longtime linemate and close friend.
“It’s pretty crazy to see how far we’ve come,’’ Kunin said. “It’s probably going to be pretty surreal to be playing against each other out there.’’
No more waiting
Saturday’s game ended a 17-day period in which the Wild played only six games, with five of those on the road. The schedule now ramps up sharply, with 23 games over 47 days.
That includes the team’s longest homestand of the year, a six-game string beginning Tuesday against Vancouver. After getting three good practice sessions last week, Boudreau said the Wild will has only three more practice days from now until Dec. 5.
Wild forwards Mikael Granlund (groin) and Landon Ferraro (hip flexor) did not play. Granlund, who has missed five games, continues to skate and is expected to rejoin the lineup this week.
Ferraro’s injury, which happened early in Friday’s loss at Winnipeg, left the Wild with only 11 healthy forwards. Saturday, the team recalled forward Cal O’Reilly from its AHL affiliate in Iowa and sent defenseman Mike Reilly back to Iowa. O’Reilly, 31, has a goal and two assists in five games for Iowa.