Usually by late December, the Wild has had about a half-dozen goalie injuries. It has usually signed two or three emergency ones off the street by now, has had to recall a couple minor leaguers and in the case of the last two years had to begin a league-wide search for its next goaltender.
So the Wild was long overdue for a goaltender kerfuffle.
One day after Devan Dubnyk was injured in practice on a fluky shot that caused a deep cut on his right wrist, it was determined after the morning skate that Monday’s scheduled starter, Darcy Kuemper, couldn’t play.
So, naturally, Dubnyk went from shooting pains up and down his arm to stopping 28 shots in a 3-1 victory over Detroit.
“That’s Dubs,” said Charlie Coyle, who moved from center to right wing and still scored his third goal in four games. “That’s what we expect from him. He’s a gamer. He always comes ready to play and comes up huge no matter what’s going on with him. He’s always ready to go and that’s what we love about him.”
Monday morning, Dubnyk said every shot or anytime anything pushed against his wrist, a pain — “kind of like a shock” — shot up into his elbow, then into his shoulder due to nerve damage.
“I was like, ‘I can’t even put my hand in my blocker without it shooting up my arm,’ so I didn’t think I’d be able to go,” Dubnyk said.
There was an hour Monday morning when the Wild had no clue which of its three goalies would start or back up. But Dubnyk’s wrist felt progressively better, “so I just said, ‘I’d give it a go,’ ” with Niklas Backstrom riding caddy.
“Just playing mind games … with ourselves,” Wild coach Mike Yeo quipped of the resurrected goalie drama.
Yeo said Kuemper’s upper-body injury has been lingering. Yeo added he doesn’t know how serious it is and hopes to provide a better update Tuesday.
Dubnyk was 1 minute, 57 seconds away from his third shutout this month when Pavel Datsyuk spoiled things. Luckily for the Wild, Mikko Koivu scored a power-play goal to provide a 2-0 lead 21 seconds earlier. Koivu then added an empty-netter 53 seconds after Datsyuk’s goal.
The Wild did a solid job piecing its game back together after a couple of disappointing losses. It worked harder, executed better, looked faster, generated lots of scoring chances and defended grudgingly.
“Win, lose, whatever, I just wanted to see us play the right way,” Yeo said.
Coyle got things started 11:42 into the game on his latest highlight-reel goal, this one where he deked Brendan Smith and left the defenseman in his dust. Nino Niederreiter, who has five assists in the past seven games, set Coyle up by winning board and puck battles with Alexey Marchenko and Tomas Jurco outside the Red Wings’ blue line.
“They keep earning more,” Yeo said of Coyle and Niederreiter.
Then, Dubnyk went to work, going head-to-head with Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, who made 32 saves. Finally Koivu made it 2-0.
“That’s our game,” Dubnyk said. “That’s how we want to play, tight and solid. If we play like that, we’re real tough to beat.”
The Wild went 2-2 on the homestand and now hits the road for tough games at St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Florida and Columbus starting Thursday.
“When you got the one-goal lead and you’re comfortable playing defense and each and every line goes out there and plays the system right, that’s the confidence you want to build,” Koivu said.