Near the end of Monday’s practice, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau approached Devan Dubnyk for a one-on-one conversation. Boudreau said he was just reminding the goaltender that “he’s our guy,” the goalie the Wild will count on as it tries to lock up a playoff berth.
Dubnyk appreciated the gesture of confidence and support after a rough couple of games. Still, he said it wasn’t necessary. During the Wild’s February slump, Dubnyk’s self-esteem has remained unshaken, and he is expected to be back in the net Tuesday against Anaheim as the team wraps up a four-game set at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild is 1-5-3 this month and 0-2-1 during the homestand. With Alex Stalock in goal for Sunday’s 4-0 loss to St. Louis, Dubnyk had a couple of days to reflect on his recent performances. That reinforced his belief that he doesn’t need to make “massive changes” to get back to top form.
“I want to get things turned around, like everyone else,” said Dubnyk, who is 1-3-2 in his past six starts with a save percentage of .874. “There are a couple of plays that you’d like to change. But when you look at things as a whole, there’s really not a lot that needs to change.
“A couple poor plays by me, and it cost us a point. It stings, for sure. But it wasn’t two games prior that things were going pretty well. You have to keep that in perspective, and remember that before you start changing what you’re doing. You just need to be as sharp as you can and trust yourself.”
Dubnyk was particularly disappointed in last Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss to New Jersey, when the Wild lost its grip on a 4-1 lead — and he misplayed a puck in overtime that led to the winning goal. He has given up 10 goals in his past two starts.
After each game, Dubnyk examines the goals that went in to determine what happened and how to fix it. He said he feels good about his skating, positioning and rebound control but needs to “sharpen up a play here or there.”
According to Boudreau, Dubnyk told him he is ready and eager to handle the pressure as the Wild fights for a playoff spot. The coach is keeping the faith, too.
“Sometimes things go wrong, but you’ve held this team together for the whole time I’ve been here,” Boudreau said, describing what he told Dubnyk on Monday. “We’re just counting on you.”
Keeping it upbeat
In a nod to the “Win One for the Gipper” speech, Boudreau noted Monday that Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and Nashville made the finals in 2017 after claiming the last Western Conference playoff spot.
“It’s getting there, and then, anything can happen,” he said. “And if you don’t believe that, then there’s no use even trying to get in. But we believe it, and we will fight right to the bitter end.”
Helping his players maintain a positive frame of mind, Boudreau said, will be critical to getting back on track. He is approaching his role like a parent, balancing criticism with pats on the back. Forward Zach Parise said the Wild needs to remember it still holds the second wild-card spot, despite recent poor play.
“As hard as it is, I don’t think coming in and being negative is really going to help anything right now,” he said. “We’ve got time to make ourselves better. It can only go up from here.”
Forward Pontus Aberg, who has missed eight games because of a lower-body injury, practiced at full speed and might play Tuesday against his former team. Aberg, acquired from Anaheim on Jan. 16, played only five games before his injury.
The Wild’s other two injured forwards — Victor Rask (lower body) and Matt Hendricks (upper body) — have not resumed skating. The timeline for their returns remains unclear, though Boudreau said Rask was feeling much better Monday.
• Former North Stars forward Mike Modano was spotted at Monday’s practice, sitting with Wild owner Craig Leipold in the balcony overlooking the ice at Tria Rink. Modano also attended Sunday’s game and the “Whiskey and Wine with the Wild” event as Leipold’s guest.
• Forward Kyle Rau was reassigned to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, and forward Cal O’Reilly was called up. O’Reilly is Iowa’s co-leader in scoring with 38 points and made his fifth appearance at the AHL’s All-Star Classic last month.