Never in his NHL career has goalie Alex Stalock been on the brink of regular, uninterrupted action like this, a shuffle of the hierarchy caused by an injury to No. 1 Devan Dubnyk.
But the influx of playing time hasn’t changed Stalock’s outlook.
Instead, he’s approaching the responsibility with the same mind-set that’s helped him settle into the Wild’s No. 2 role this season.
“It’s more night-to-night,” Stalock said. “Still have to earn it.”
The 30-year-old is poised to take over the Wild’s crease while Dubnyk is out week-to-week with what, according to a source, is a minor knee injury suffered Tuesday in the 2-1 shootout win over the Flames.
Dubnyk probably will stay off the ice until the weekend, coach Bruce Boudreau said, but he’ll accompany the team on its upcoming road trip and has a chance of working with the team next week.
“I know they’re saying week-to-week right now,” Stalock said. “But for us as a group in here, I think everybody’s kind of hoping it’s day-to-day.”
Stalock already has become a fixture in the lineup recently, replacing Dubnyk in Tuesday’s game and leading the team to a win last Sunday. Before that, he’s been a reliable option when the Wild has called up on him.
“He’s done well for us,” Boudreau said. “The only game he’s been moderately average is the Winnipeg game, and the rest of the guys didn’t really help him that night. We got all the confidence in the world in him.”
After joining the Wild before last season, Stalock spent the majority of 2016-17 in the minors but lassoed the backup job behind Dubnyk in training camp.
It was his first steady position in the NHL since he was an understudy with the Sharks, as he remained in the American Hockey League after a 2016 trade to Toronto — the team Stalock faced Thursday at the outset of his latest opportunity.
“My job is to go in there and get a win and play well and hopefully get the look the next night,” he said.
Winger Zach Parise skated with the team for the first time Thursday since he underwent back surgery in October to relieve pressure on a nerve causing leg pain and weakness.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who’s been sidelined since Nov. 27 because of a groin strain, also skated with the group for a second consecutive day and appears to be moving closer to a return.
Boudreau hopes both will be on the ice for the team’s practice Friday. The two also will accompany the team on its upcoming road trip, with practice time available during the four-game trek.
“It’s nice to see that they’re getting on the mend,” he said, “and that they are getting closer. As to how close, we’ll soon see.”
With Dubnyk out, the Wild recalled goalie Steve Michalek from Iowa of the American Hockey League Thursday on an emergency basis.
The 24-year-old went 6-1-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average with Iowa. Drafted in the sixth round, 161st overall, by the Wild in 2011, Michalek has yet to make his NHL debut and it’s possible he will stay in the No. 2 role behind Stalock.
After hosting the Oilers on Saturday, the Wild completes a back-to-back Sunday in Chicago against the Blackhawks. But considering Saturday’s start time is 1 p.m. and the flight to Chicago is relatively short, Stalock could play both games.
The road trip continues in Ottawa on Tuesday before another back-to-back in Florida on Friday (Panthers in Sunrise) and Saturday (Lightning in Tampa Bay) before the leaguewide holiday break begins.
“I got to play with Al last year in Iowa, and I learned a ton from him,” Michalek said. “Every time I’m up here, I just try to learn as much as I can.
“Obviously, there’s some really good shooters out there. It’s a great challenge every time I get out there with them.”