CALGARY, ALBERTA – When the Wild reassigned Matt Dumba for the NHL All-Star break so he could play in the AHL All-Star Game, the 20-year-old defenseman and Calgary hometowner got inundated with calls from friends wondering if there was a chance he would be called back up for Thursday’s Wild-Flames game.
You see, they wanted to buy tickets.
“I basically said, ‘No, find other plans,’ ” Dumba said, laughing.
Little did Dumba know at the time, the Wild would end up having Dumba and Stu Bickel swap places Thursday and Dumba would play his first career game at the Saddledome, a place he played scores of times as a youth and during his Western Hockey League career as a member of the Red Deer Rebels.
Dumba got the call Wednesday night. He was told to keep it on the down low, so he told buddies “not to tweet or put anything on Instagram.” He also called his mom, Treena, and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow night, and she was so confused. She started freaking out.”
Dumba expected more than 20 family members, including his father, Charlie; brother, Kyle, who is expected to play next year for the WHL Calgary Hitmen; and several aunts, uncles and little cousins, at Thursday’s game.
Dumba moved to Calgary from Regina, Saskatchewan, when he was about 6 and grew up 20 minutes from the Saddledome. He was a diehard Flames fan and huge Jarome Iginla fan. He called Thursday’s game a “dream come true” and figured adrenaline would get him through after a 4 a.m. wakeup call in Des Moines so he could fly to Denver to catch a connection to Calgary.
“But I’m a really good sleeper on planes,” Dumba said. “I slept before we took off and through the landing.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter, who was banged up in Edmonton on Tuesday, played, so Dumba skated for fellow rookie Christian Folin, who was scratched over Nate Prosser because of Prosser’s “important penalty-kill role,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
“He wants to have an impact and wants to make a difference every time he’s on the ice, and part of that is what makes him an effective player and part of that is still how he has to grow and mature as a player,” Yeo said of Dumba before the game.
With three goalies on the 23-man roster (Devan Dubnyk, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper, who is on a conditioning stint), the Wild plans to carry one extra forward and one extra defenseman until rosters expand at the March 2 trade deadline.
That means the Wild might have to do a lot of roster shuffling anytime Yeo wants to change the lineup. In order to play Dumba on Thursday, Bickel had to return to Iowa.
Center Erik Haula was scratched for a second consecutive game and fifth time since Dec. 23.
• Remember when Zach Parise was upset at the “shoelace” Rangers doctors stitched into his face when he was cut open by a stick at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27? He said at the time, “I don’t like them road stitches.”
“I think the Oilers doc read what I said,” Parise said, laughing. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘We’ve got this really thin, fine stitching.’ He did a really good job.”
Parise was referring to the stitches in his bottom lip after being struck by a puck Tuesday in Edmonton. One doctor removed the nerve from where his tooth was knocked out while the other doctor stitched him up.
“They didn’t want water to hit the nerve. That hurt a lot. I couldn’t feel anything else because I was so numb,” Parise said.
• Kuemper, in his first conditioning stint game for Iowa, was pulled after two periods against Grand Rapids after giving up five goals on 28 shots. He has been yanked five times this season with Minnesota.
• Left wing Matt Cooke, whose wife’s grandmother died over the weekend, returned from Belleville, Ontario, and played Thursday.
• Justin Fontaine sustained a lower-body injury in the third period.