MONTREAL – It’s been more than a month since Wild backup Alex Stalock has started a game in goal, his longest dry spell of the season.
But amid what’s shaping up to be a busy push during the second half as the team vies to reclaim a playoff spot, Stalock is primed to take on a heavier workload — beginning Tuesday against the Bruins in Boston, where he is expected to handle the finale of the Wild’s four-game road trip.
“Be prepared every night, and you go every week and work as hard as you can at practice,” Stalock said “You never know what happens. You could play a couple in a row or whatever it may be. Obviously, you get to this time of the year and it’s when the playoff picture starts getting a little bit clearer and you’re pushing for points a little bit more. This is starting to be the fun time of the year.”
Although Stalock hasn’t started since Dec. 6 in Calgary, when he and the Wild suffered a 2-0 loss to the Flames, he has appeared in relief of No. 1 Devan Dubnyk twice.
He played the majority of the 7-2 loss to the Oilers on Dec. 7 in Edmonton and swooped in Dec. 27 in Chicago during an eventual 5-2 loss.
“I’ve gotten into some games, which you don’t really want to do in my job,” said Stalock, who is 5-3 with a .903 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average. “You want your guy to be in the whole game, but you gotta go in some nights. That’s a good way to get work and get back to game speed. Got in a few times. Obviously, getting the start is always nice.”
Although winger Luke Kunin banked 19 games of experience with the Wild last season, he felt it took him time to recalibrate to NHL speed after starting the season in the minors as he worked his way back from a torn ACL.
And now, with more than 10 games since his call-up, he’s found a rhythm alongside winger Zach Parise and center Charlie Coyle on the Wild’s most consistent line of late.
“It’s going to take a little bit to get back into the groove and comfortable with things,” Kunin said. “I’m playing with two great players right now, and we’re finding some success. So just try to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Kunin was a career-high plus-3 Saturday in the 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators and after tallying two assists in that game, he established a career best in that category with four; he had two last season.
“He’s just playing very simple, and the way he knows how to play,” Coyle said. “He uses his speed and moves his legs. He’s making smart plays, and he gets in on the forecheck hard and those defensemen hear his footsteps. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s powerful and he’s strong and he gets in there and the pucks are just kind of floating out and we’re recovering them.”
Former Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard took in the Wild’s Sunday practice at Bell Centre.
Bouchard, drafted eighth overall by the franchise in 2002, spent 10 seasons with the team — recording 106 goals and 347 points in 565 regular-season games. He went on to split one more season between the NHL and American Hockey League and then two in Switzerland before retiring.
• Defenseman Nate Prosser made his first appearance on the road trip against the Canadiens, subbing in for Ryan Murphy.
• The Wild made one other lineup change, inserting J.T. Brown on the fourth line in place of Matt Hendricks.