DENVER – Wild goaltender Alex Stalock was busy, sprawling out for saves, pawing pucks with his glove and funneling passes to teammates.
But it could be a while before Stalock experiences another night like the one he had in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche on Sunday at Pepsi Center, an outcome that dropped the Wild to 1-1-2 in the preseason.
Starter Devan Dubnyk is likely to handle the final two tuneups before opening the season for the Wild, a workload that could give his understudy Stalock a lengthy layoff in the meantime.
"That's the life of a backup goalie," coach Bruce Boudreau said.
This type of rhythm isn't unusual for Stalock, who can also go long stretches between appearances in the regular season.
Having a lull going into the start of the schedule, however, seems to underscore the importance of the reps he does get in the preseason. And there were plenty of them in Stalock's two starts.
Before he made 34 saves against Colorado, Stalock made 19 stops on 21 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Stars on Tuesday.
"Just like anyone else, timing is huge for a goalie," Stalock said. "Fighting through traffic, seeing pucks, penalty kills, that type of stuff where there's movement and set plays that you are trying to pick up reads and loose bodies again. Plays are happening fast, so getting reads and figuring out the timing again."
And even if he's not in game action, Stalock has other ways he can stay ready.
"You just work hard," he said. "You're watching the game. You're sitting front row, so you're watching plays develop."
Winger Kevin Fiala won't make his preseason debut until Thursday, after being scratched Sunday.
The team decided to hold him out because of jet lag and fatigue.
When he does return to action, the Wild hopes to see a youngster who becomes a consistent contributor — but not at the expense of solid play in his own end and without the puck.
"He's a young, skilled player," Boudreau said. "I don't think we have enough of them. We're expecting him to put up numbers and at the same time be a little more responsible defensively than he was at the end of last year."
Work in progress
Mats Zuccarello registered a game-high three points Saturday in the 4-3 win over the Avalanche, including the deciding goal, but the winger was still critical of his performance.
"I was terrible," Zuccarello said after the game. "It takes some time to get into and get used to. Obviously, you can look at the points, but I didn't play that well."
Getting in a groove is the focus of the preseason, and that's a process Zuccarello continues to work through as he adjusts to a new team. But the fact he can still be productive while feeling off is encouraging for the Wild.
"He looks like he's still getting used to linemates, and his timing is still not where I'm sure he wants it to be," Boudreau said. "But … all the really good players cannot look or be as good as they feel and still get three points. That's what makes a lot of great players great."
• The Wild assigned Sam Anas, Colton Beck, Gabriel Dumont, Mike Liambas and Hunter Warner to Iowa of the American Hockey League after all cleared waivers. Matt Bartkowski, Luke Johnson and Kyle Rau will be placed on waivers Monday and will be assigned to Iowa on Tuesday if they clear. These moves reduce the training camp roster to 29.
• Defenseman Greg Pateryn accompanied the Wild to Colorado despite dealing with a nagging lower-body injury. "I'm really hoping that he's able to play the last two [preseason] games," Boudreau said.
• Rau, Gerald Mayhew and Luke Kunin had attempts in the shootout; Mayhew was the only one who capitalized. "I know I should have maybe gone with the guys that are known scorers," Boudreau said, "but I wanted to reward some of these guys that played so hard for us in training camp."