Three, in this case, is good company.
That’s what coach Bruce Boudreau, defenseman Ryan Suter and goalie Devan Dubnyk all said after Wild practice Tuesday.
All three will be representing the team at the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. For each it’s an honor. For Suter, it’s his third trip, for Dubnyk his second straight. For Boudreau, it’s his first after knocking at the door a few times.
But what makes it special is that they’ll all be there together.
“We’ve been so good up and down the lineup this year, we should have lots of guys there,’’ Dubnyk said.
If the Wild goalie benefited last season from the rule that required each team to have a representative at the game, this year he is clearly the league’s elite in the nets. He leads the NHL with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .939 saves percentage. In his first 27 appearances, he never gave up more than three goals. He has five shutouts.
Suter leads the league’s defensemen in plus/minus (+24) and is second in the league in minutes played (27:16).
“It’s always special,’’ Suter said. “You’re always honored to be a part of it. I’ve never played on the 3-on-3 things, so that will be interesting.’’
The league named 44 players to the All-Star Game, which has a 3-on-3 format featuring four 11-man teams. Boudreau will coach the Central Division team because the Wild has the best points percentage in the division. For Dubnyk, it is another step in a career that, just a few years ago, seemed to be going nowhere. Mired in Montreal’s farm system during the 2013-14 season, he found his way briefly to Arizona before being traded to the Wild in time for him to lead the team to the playoffs in the spring of 2015. Now he’s going to his second straight All-Star Game.
“You just appreciate it that much more,’’ he said. “Again, it’s an honor to be named among a group of the best players in the league. Coming from what happened, it’s just … I’ll make sure I’ll enjoy every second of it.’’
Of course it’s not easy being a goaltender All-Star weekend, when defense takes a back seat. Dubnyk joked that it’s an honor to be named to the team, not as much of an honor to play in it.
“I’ve got some improvement to do off my last year’s numbers,’’ he said. “I’ll see if I can keep it under a goal every two minutes.’’
Boudreau, who celebrated his 62nd birthday Monday, has been close a couple of times. Once was an Olympic year, when there was no All-Star Game. Then, during the 2008-09 season, when he was in Washington, his team needed one point in a game at Montreal to clinch coaching duties. The score was tied, late, when a shot from Montreal’s Sergei Kostitsyn from the blue line somehow found the back of the net with 22 seconds left in the game.
“That sorta ticked me off,’’ Boudreau said. “But, hey, I’ve got a chance there now. I think it’s great. I mean, I’m not greedy, I’ll take one.’’
And Dubnyk will take two, Suter his third.
“I’ve told everybody I’ve talked to that [Dubnyk] has had an amazing season,’’ Boudreau said. “He’s kept us in every game we’ve played. It’s a great pick. There are a lot of good goalies in the NHL, and he deserves it. Sutes has done everything. He’s our rock. Absolutely, he deserves it as well. I would have liked to have seen more players, but I understand the whole format.’’
Among those who might have merited consideration were Eric Staal, who leads the Wild with 35 points, and Mikko Koivu, who has 28 points and is a plus-19. The Blackhawks, who lead the Central Division because they have played five more games than the Wild, had a league-high four players selected for the game — goalie Corey Crawford, defenseman Duncan Keith, and forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Three Minnesotans — Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk (UMD Bulldogs), Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo (Gophers) and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (Cretin-Derham Hall) — will play in the game.