Wild backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper is eager to contribute to the team’s recent run of success, and is expected to get that opportunity Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.
“I’m looking forward to the start,” Kuemper said after Friday’s practice at Xcel Energy Center. “It’s awesome watching all the success [starting goalie Devan Dubnyk is] having and all the success the team is having. It’s fun coming to the rink right now, and I’m excited to get the chance to contribute to it.”
Kuemper, who hasn’t played since Nov. 29, will give Dubnyk a day of rest while trying to keep the Wild’s win streak intact. Coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t confirm that Kuemper would start Saturday, but said “it’s crossed our minds” and “we’re going to talk it over a little more.”
The Wild has won six in a row overall, five in a row at home and has gotten at least a point from 11 of its past 12 games (8-1-3). Their last regulation loss came in Kuemper’s last game, a 5-4 defeat in Vancouver.
Dubnyk, a former Coyote, is 8-0-2 in his past 10 starts, but Boudreau said: “Dubs isn’t going to play 75 games this year. We’ve got to give [Kuemper] an opportunity to get back in there.”
Kuemper is 2-2-1 this season and his last victory came Nov. 13 at Ottawa.
The Coyotes have won three of their past four after a six-game losing streak.
Defenseman Ryan Suter said he enjoyed the boos showered upon him by Nashville fans throughout Thursday night’s 5-2 victory. The former Predators star was plus-2 and he is plus-19 this year, leading the NHL.
In the past 23 games, he has had only two minus games.
“Especially in the third period or when things got a little ragged, to put [Suter] out there and to settle things down I thought was really good,” Boudreau said Thursday. “He had a really good game.”
Fresher legs might have something to do with Suter’s success this season, though he’s not paying close attention to his average ice time. He has topped 30 minutes only twice this season; in the four previous seasons with the Wild he played 30-plus minutes in 92 games.
“The biggest thing is other guys are playing more and playing better and that is definitely good for the team. I haven’t really thought about [my ice time],” Suter said before eventually concluding, “This is the best I’ve felt probably in my career.”
Can she help?
The Wild had an extra skater at practice Friday, and she stood just above 5-foot-2.
Natalie Darwitz, the former Gophers star and Olympian who now is the head coach at Hamline, practiced with the team to help kick off Girls Hockey Weekend, aimed at promoting the growth of the sport.
Darwitz ran through drills with the team and even got off a few shots on goal. She got Dubnyk to bite once, but “I couldn’t finish” Darwitz said. “But he came by and gave me a little stick tap the next huddle.”
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I’m just grateful for the Minnesota Wild to put on this weekend and for me to get out there. … When you’re trying to grow a sport you need a huge figure like the Minnesota Wild to help push you down the hill and I know the women’s hockey community is really appreciative of them taking the bull by the horns … and going above and beyond.”
Zach Parise and Darwitz have a history of playing together in events. Parise remembers “she was always our best player. So it was neat to fast-forward all these years and see her on the ice again.
“It’s about growing the game … and girls’ hockey has really come a long way.”