Alex Stalock has had no problem fulfilling the job requirements of being the Wild’s backup goalie this season, performing well during most of his spot starts and being steady in relief.
Where Stalock has yet to find a groove, though, is in that next game after a successful one — an opportunity he’s typically merited because of his strong play.
But the netminder could have another chance to get on a roll when the Wild plays host to the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center after Stalock’s 30 saves helped the team to a 4-1 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday in Buffalo.
“Consistency, that’s what any coach looks for in any player whether it’s a forward, ‘D’ or goalie,” Stalock said Wednesday after the Wild practiced at Tria Rink in St. Paul. “It’s not just a one-night league. It’s an every-day league, and [Thursday’s] going to be another test. The focus is going to be there, and the goal is to get two points and give my best effort, and I know these guys are fired up to get something going here.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday he was still mulling the decision of who to start, but that was before the team recalled Kaapo Kahkonen under emergency conditions from Iowa in the American Hockey League after No. 1 Devan Dubnyk missed practice because of a family issue.
“He’s fine and healthy and ready to go if we need him,” Boudreau said after practice.
If Stalock does get the nod to face the Avalanche, it would be his ninth start.
Last season, he didn’t reach that number until Jan. 15. In 2017-18, it came Dec. 16.
A busier workload thus far is indicative of Dubnyk’s struggles (4-8-2 with a .893 save percentage and 3.36 goals-against average) and an upper-body injury that sidelined Dubnyk for a pair of games, and overall, Stalock has risen to the challenge.
At 4-3 with a .911 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against average, he’s recorded as many wins as Dubnyk and was actually in net for most of the Oct. 22 victory over the Oilers, even though Dubnyk was credited with the decision despite leaving the action because of his injury.
Each of Stalock’s first three victories, however, were followed by a letdown his next time out.
Most recently, Stalock was chased by the Sharks after giving up four goals on 12 shots in the first period on Nov. 7, an eventual 6-5 loss for the Wild that Dubnyk absorbed. The game before that, Stalock made 29 saves in a 4-2 rally over the Ducks.
“We’ve tried to figure out whether it’s through [strength and conditioning coach] Sean [Skahan] or the coaches in discussion why the second game isn’t as good,” Boudreau said. “One of the reasons is the team hasn’t played a lot of back-to-back good games. We’ve only won two games in a row once even though this is a 2-0-1 stretch that we’re on. So I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Boudreau also worries fatigue becomes a factor because of how hard Stalock works in practice, but maybe that won’t be an issue for anyone Thursday since Boudreau held a shorter-than-usual session Wednesday.
He also instructed Stalock to get off the ice, perhaps a sign that he will get a chance to build off his solid showing from earlier this week.
“Wanting to make that first save is kind of the goal,” Stalock said. “Obviously, it’s a tough test with a good team coming in. But I look forward to that.”