It’s unclear if Sunday was the last time this version of the Wild suited up, but players hope that everyone who’s currently on the team remains on the roster past Monday’s trade deadline.
“It's always a bit of a nerve-wracking time for everybody, especially when we've seen moves being made,” winger Jason Zucker said. “It's one of those things where I hope I see every guy in this room tomorrow. At the same time, it's also the reality of the sport that it happens.”
If players viewed Sunday’s game as their last chance to make a case to stick together, they fulfilled their objective – eking out a 2-1 overtime win over the Blues at Xcel Energy Center that signaled its third straight victory.
This is the longest win streak for the Wild since it banked three in a row Jan.19-23 on the brink of the All-Star break.
“[Ryan] Donato has come in and played well,” Zucker said. “[Devan Dubnyk] is playing well. We have a lot of guys that are trying to pull weight here.”
Whether that’s enough, though, to convince General Manager Paul Fenton to remain inactive Monday remains to be seen.
The deadline expires at 2 p.m. Central Time; the team won’t practice before then, instead traveling to Winnipeg in the afternoon for a matchup with the Jets Tuesday.
“It’d be nice if we were playing this way a little earlier so it’d be a little less stressful as far as if anyone’s coming or going,” Dubnyk said. “Never hoping for anybody to leave the room. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, and hopefully we have the same group playing [Tuesday].”
The Wild spent most of the game down a forward since winger Pontus Aberg left sick after the first period.
That led to a shuffling of the lines, and coach Bruce Boudreau slotted Donato at right wing.
“We talk about the line combinations all the time, and I didn’t want to tinker with them before the game even though I thought there would’ve been better combinations, if that makes any sense, because we’d won two in a row,” Boudreau explained. “… Ryan had told me the other day he could play right wing. I don’t know if he’s ever played it or he was just feeding me a line, but he got his opportunity tonight.”
Donato responded by scoring his first goal with the Wild, a memorable tally since it was the overtime clincher. Since joining the team, Donato has four points in three games.
“It’s been obviously a whirlwind experience,” Donato said. “It’s been pretty hectic, but these are experiences that you’ll remember so I’m really happy about that. And thank you to [Boudreau] for having the confidence to put me out there.”
A week ago, the Wild struggled to contain the Blues’ top players. But this go around, center Ryan O’Reilly stayed off the scoresheet and winger Vladimir Tarasenko notched just one assist – solid work by center Joel Eriksson Ek’s line.
“They did a great job,” Boudreau said. “They’re playing very responsibly, and I think Ek is really exerting himself and taking another step forward that we didn’t see for the last year and a half.”
The action was delayed in the third after the toe lace that ties Dubnyk’s pad to his skate broke, forcing Dubnyk to the bench to fix the issue.
“I was moving as fast as I could,” Dubnyk said. “I think I was sweating more after I completed that than I was during the game. Fortunately, [the referees] let me stay in there.”