The last time Kaapo Kahkonen was called up by the Wild, he stayed for a month. With goaltender Devan Dubnyk away from the team, helping his wife deal with a serious medical issue, Kahkonen was summoned from the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa and got his first taste of NHL play.
Kahkonen was recalled again Tuesday for what is expected to be a shorter stay. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Dubnyk's wife, Jenn, is "having something done'' this week. That kept Dubnyk out of Tuesday's practice at Tria Rink, and he will not travel with the Wild for Thursday's game at Calgary.
He's expected to be away for only a few days this time, unlike the extended absence that brought Kahkonen to the Wild from Nov. 20 to Dec. 16. No matter how long Kahkonen sticks around this time, he said the familiarity he gained during that earlier stretch — with everything from his teammates to the faster pace of play to the rhythms of NHL life — will make for a smoother adjustment this time.
"Just to know everyone, it helps a lot,'' said Kahkonen, who went 3-1 with a goals-against average of 2.96 and save percentage of .913 in his first five NHL games. "And last time I was up, I felt more and more comfortable with the higher pace on the ice. When you've had some practices and games up here, it takes less time to get back into that pace.''
Dubnyk missed 15 games between Nov. 16 and Dec. 19 while attending to his wife's health. Jenn Dubnyk was at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday for a ceremony commemorating her husband's 500th NHL game.
In Sunday's 5-4 shootout loss to Calgary, the Flames scored two power-play goals on four chances, continuing the Wild's futility on the penalty kill. Dating to Nov. 21, the Wild has given up power-play goals on 20 of 62 chances, a rate of 67.7% that ranks last in the NHL over that time frame.
Though Boudreau said Tuesday that "a lot of things haven't been working,'' he felt Sunday's goals — both of which went in off sticks or skates — were the result of bad bounces, rather than poor execution. He hasn't lost confidence.
"It's the same penalty killers we've had for years, and we've always been in the Top 10,'' he said. "It's going to turn around.''
One of those players, forward Marcus Foligno, said the group did a good job Sunday of applying pressure and not allowing Calgary to set up quickly. Still, he finds it frustrating to look at the stats.
"It is, especially for a guy like me who takes pride in it and wants it to be perfect,'' Foligno said. "It's such a crucial part of the game now. It's something we know has to get fixed sooner rather than later. Trying to make the playoffs, it's a key that we need to kind of get going.''
The defensive corps was a bit thin for much of Tuesday's practice, though Boudreau anticipates it will be intact for Thursday's game. Brad Hunt sat out after having a procedure done on his sinuses Monday, and Ryan Suter left the ice early.
Boudreau said Suter has been dealing with an unspecified physical issue for awhile and is limiting his practice time. While he will play Thursday, Boudreau added that the nine-day break in the schedule later this month "is going to be important for him.''
Hunt was advised by doctors to stay off the ice for a day after his procedure. He is expected to play Thursday.
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski was called up from Iowa for insurance purposes.
• Boudreau said defenseman Nick Seeler, who is in Iowa on a conditioning assignment, will remain with the Wild's AHL affiliate for a full two weeks. Seeler has been a healthy scratch for much of the season, playing only six NHL games. He was sent to Iowa last Friday to get some playing time.
Seeler will play five or six games there and is expected to return to the Wild next week. He is plus-2 with one assist in his first two games with Iowa.
• Defenseman Greg Pateryn is participating fully in practice and could be ready to make his season debut in about a week. He has been sidelined since having core muscle surgery in October.