LEDUC, ALBERTA – With a light schedule on the horizon and Devan Dubnyk expected to get the lion’s share of Wild starts during the stretch, goalie Darcy Kuemper agreed to a conditioning stint with American Hockey League Iowa Wild on Monday.
The assignment can last a maximum of two weeks. Iowa has six games during that time, although Kuemper won’t see all that action.
Kuemper had missed seven games because of a lower-body injury, but he returned Tuesday in relief of Dubnyk and didn’t give up a goal in 37 minutes, 35 seconds to help the Wild get a point. Still, the Wild, which is carrying three goalies, wants Kuemper to get some work after struggles the past few months. When he sustained the injury, that opened the door to a minor league assignment that couldn’t otherwise happen because he needs to clear waivers to get there.
Since Nov. 11, Kuemper has been pulled five times, won seven games and has seen his save percentage fall from .915 to .904 and his goals against average rise from 1.99 to 2.62.
What does coach Mike Yeo hope Kuemper accomplishes from the time in the minors?
“Playing time, practice time before he gets the playing time,” Yeo said. “But more than anything else, just to mentally get himself back on track. I actually thought he played well in the Detroit game, but he needs to get more of a base underneath him.
“I’m just hoping for him to get a real good foundation coming back here as far as the confidence level, and obviously the playing time will be huge for him.”
As for Dubnyk, a 2004 Oilers first-round pick, this is not his first return to Edmonton since being traded by them to Nashville last year. In fact, with Arizona, Dubnyk was 3-0 against the Oilers with a 0.97 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
“I played with a lot of those guys for a long time, so I still have some great relationships there and played a lot of games at Rexall [Place],” Dubnyk said. “The first one I was definitely most nervous for. It’s still a little bit weird to play there, but probably not as weird as having to play Arizona three days after the trade. So it’ll be all right.”
Dumba likely to stay in Iowa
Defenseman Matt Dumba took part in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday night.
Yeo indicated the Wild would like to keep Dumba developing in Iowa unless it absolutely needs him. With six healthy defensemen — Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin — the Wild called up Stu Bickel as an extra body for the road trip.
“[Dumba’s] ice time is so valuable down there,” Yeo said. “The game is on his stick every game and [John Torchetti] is doing a great job with him, so we’ll keep letting him develop and if we need him and we feel he can help us win, then we’ll make that decision. But certainly we’re very focused on his development too.”
• Center Erik Haula is expected to be a scratch against the Oilers.
“It’s not about skating in open ice and it’s not about skating fast in a straight line,” Yeo said. “It’s about the compete level in the small areas, it’s about being strong on the puck and puck strength and stick strength and D-zone coverage. These are the things that we need to see from him.”
• Asked about his apparent All-Star break dinner with Twins star Joe Mauer, Zach Parise said: “That’s why I don’t like social media. You can’t do anything anymore.”
• Yeo didn’t watch Suter play in Sunday’s All-Star Game, joking, “I watched that game about as intensely as it was played.”