Devan Dubnyk will get to spend extra time with his newborn son, Parker, this weekend.
The Wild goalie, hampered by a groin strain, stayed behind for a two-game western road trip. Darcy Kuemper will start his second consecutive game Friday night at Arizona.
“He was on the ice [Thursday] morning and wasn’t quite feeling 100 percent, so there’s really no point in rushing things here and taking a risk on injuring things worse,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s getting closer and we’ll just leave him behind.
“It’s not a setback. He even said he felt pretty good but just doesn’t have full confidence in pushing side to side right now.”
Yeo said the plan is to play Kuemper on Friday against the Coyotes, but no plans have been made for Saturday’s stop in San Jose. Niklas Backstrom will be the backup.
Kuemper shut out Arizona in his only career start against the Coyotes last season.
“There’s never a convenient time for an injury,” said Dubnyk, whose second child was born Wednesday. “But yeah, I guess. It’s important to be around. It was tough leaving the hospital each time and saying bye, so I’m happy to go spend some time with them.
“[The groin] felt good [Thursday]. There’s just kind of stuff around the net that you feel a little bit tentative about, but there are certainly no setbacks. It’s more just you can’t be going into games performingwise if there’s that little bit of tentativeness. So everything is still on schedule and it feels good, so we’ll stay off it for the weekend and be ready for next week.”
Kuemper has 27 saves and given up just two goals in 92-plus minutes since taking over for Dubnyk last Saturday against Colorado. He’ll make his fifth start of the season on Friday.
“It’s a good opportunity … you get two good practices this week with the mind-set that you’re starting. It gives you a few more days to approach it and get ready to go,” Kuemper said.
“You’re definitely more comfortable in there the more you play. You’ve just got to use that to your advantage. You can’t ease up because you’re more comfortable. You just got to keep that focus and take it one shot at time.”
Yeo will stick with his top six defensemen Friday night after recalling Tyson Strachan from Iowa of the AHL on Wednesday.
Strachan, 32, adds more experience and a physical presence on the back end should he be needed. The move sent former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, who had practiced with the team since last Wednesday, back to Iowa without the rookie making his NHL debut.
“It was good for [Reilly] to come up to reset and get an opportunity to get readjusted mentally, and now it’s time for him to go play again,” Yeo said. “Young kids, it’s important for them to play.”
Strachan, on the other hand, has played 184 games in the NHL over seven seasons.
“I’ll help out any way I can. I’m confident at this level,” Strachan said. “I’ve been here before, so whatever I can do to help and stick around. … Hopefully I get in the lineup and show that I can help the team.”
Vikings fans looking to extend their weekend in the Arizona sun could offer the Wild some extra support on Friday. The Vikings played the Cardinals next door to Gila River Arena in Glendale on Thursday night, and the Timberwolves play the Suns in downtown Phoenix on Sunday.
Yeo is expecting good support for the road game, but that’s something he’s already used to wherever the Wild are playing.
“In the five years I’ve been here now, I’ve seen a much bigger difference in the number of fans we have traveling,” Yeo said. “I think Wild fans travel well now. It doesn’t matter where we are. This weekend will be an exciting time and hopefully Minnesota can get the Arizona sweep.”