So, how did Devan Dubnyk follow up a week in which he was named the NHL's third star? With two shutouts that earned him a promotion. Monday, the Wild goalie was picked as the league's first star for the week ending Feb. 8, thanks to shutouts of Chicago and Colorado in which he stopped all 42 shots he faced to help his team extend its winning streak to five games.
Dubnyk was grateful for the recognition, noting that the honors feel especially good coming after he endured a rocky patch in his career. He will get the start tonight as the Wild faces Vancouver at Xcel Energy Center, with Niklas Backstrom backing up. Darcy Kuemper also was on the ice at Monday's morning skate after returning to Minnesota following a five-game rehab stint in Iowa.
Coach Mike Yeo hasn't decided who will start Tuesday at Winnipeg. But he sounded like he'd prefer to keep Dubnyk in whenever possible. "He's been playing at a level that whenever he's available, whenever we feel he's fresh and whenever we feel we're not going to put him in a bad situation, right now, the way things are going, there's a good chance he’ll be in the net,'' Yeo said. "We’ll have to evaluate after (Monday's) game what we need for tomorrow, based on how the game went tonight and based on some other decisions we'll have to make.''
The always-cheerful Kuemper settled into a new locker stall on the end of the row occupied by the Wild's defensemen. He said his rehab stint went well, and he isn't going to fret about what he cannot control. His numbers in Iowa were not dazzling--he went 2-3, with a goals-against average of 3.22 and save percentage of .891 and one shutout--but he said he was happy with how he played.
"I don’t even know what the numbers were,'' Kuemper said. "I felt good. I was making big saves every game. The team's having a bit of a tough year there, but we worked hard.''
Kuemper said during his time in Iowa, the areas he worked on included his reads, his ability to corral rebounds, playing with control and being in position to stop second-chance shots. He said he feels ready to start for the Wild, but he admitted he doesn't know what is going to happen--a feeling Yeo echoed, as he again said there is no set plan for handling three goaltenders. He does have to make sure he's managing the situation properly, he said, expressing sympathy for the trials that Kuemper and Backstrom have faced this season.
"In a lot of ways, I feel bad for (Backstrom) and I feel bad for (Kuemper),'' Yeo said. "As well as (Dubnyk) has played, he deserves an awful lot of attention. And obviously, that’s kind of magnified and put a little more pressure and been a little bit tougher for those guys to deal with everything.
"They're handling it well. They’ve had a great attitude. I also think we're playing a better game right now, so when either of those two guys gets back in the lineup, hopefully we give them a chance to be successful.''
Dubnyk got lots of attention from the Vancouver media this morning, and he noted how much he appreciates this run of success. By the way, his first shutout of the season--earned while he was playing for Arizona--came at Vancouver, a 35-save gem in November.
"It's great,'' he said of the NHL recognition. "It's exciting. It's one of those things, I'll probably try to sit down Wednesday and take a minute and really enjoy it, because we've got a couple big games coming up here.
"It's nice to be talked about for the right reasons. It's important to not change what I'm doing, but it's also important to take some time on a day in between and really enjoy it.''
No lineup changes for tonight. A couple of random stats:
--Vancouver is 20-4-2 when scoring first, prompting Yeo to note how important it will be for the Wild to be sharp right from the start.
--The Canucks have the league's seventh-best road record (15-8-2).