EDMONTON, Alberta – Getting back on the ice with the Wild for the second round of training camp this season hasn’t exactly felt normal to defenseman Matt Dumba, not when he exits the arena and is greeted by temperatures in the 90s.
“That’s kind of the polar opposite of what it usually is around the season time here in Minnesota,” Dumba said during a recent video conference call.
But with a Stanley Cup awaiting the winner of the 24-team postseason tournament that’ll get underway next month, Dumba is excited for the challenge.
“I want to pick up where I left off and just be solid,” he said.
Where Dumba left off was on the upswing, playing arguably the best hockey of his season.
After an uneven start in which his minutes declined and he was demoted down the defensive depth chart, Dumba seemed to settle in the more games he logged in his return from a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him the second half of 2018-19.
In the 22 games leading up to the March 12 stoppage, Dumba had 11 points and was more sound in his own end.
“He probably will tell you it wasn’t the year he wanted,” coach Dean Evason said. “… We forget the seriousness of his injury, and it’s taken some time. He’s had the opportunity to rest, work out and he looks strong. He looks fast. He looks big, actually, on the ice.
“So if Matt Dumba shoots the puck, he’s going to have success. We get him to do that in the offensive zone, the rest of his game will feed off that.”
Even as he’s preparing for the season to resume, Dumba hasn’t forgotten about his work in the community. He was among a group of players to form the Hockey Diversity Alliance during the break in the season, to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.
“We’ve been in contact with the NHL,” Dumba said. “We’ve had three meetings with them now. Looking to make change and act as agents of change in this game. I know we’re optimistic of what lies in the future for the HDA.”
For the first time in camp, the Wild scrimmaged Saturday — a 4-3 rally for Team White over Team Green.
Zach Parise, Jonas Brodin (twice), Jordan Greenway and Jared Spurgeon were among the goal scorers.
Evason was pleased with the offense and transition play through the neutral zone, but said he felt the Wild wasn’t tight defensively. Overall, though, the competitiveness was there.
“It wasn’t messing around,” Evason said. “Like they were playing hockey and getting ready to play the game for real. So, it’s a real good step forward.”
The top defensive pairing featuring Spurgeon and Ryan Suter was strong, with Suter’s skating looking particularly sharp. And center Nico Sturm, who was a call-up from the minors during the season, had an impressive showing.
“He’s just such a worker in every area,” Evason said. “He just doesn’t stop. He works and works and works. His attention to detail is real good.”
Prospect Calen Addison also stood out.
Addison, a 20-year-old defenseman, is attending camp to get familiar with the organization after being acquired in the Jason Zucker trade with the Penguins in February.
“Very smooth,” Evason said. “Very confident with the puck. Same as any young player coming up, he’s going to have to learn his reads defensively and know his positioning defensively so he doesn’t get into a physical confrontation with a guy like [Marcus] Foligno. He’s not going to win that physical confrontation, but he can win the stick battle because of his intelligence and his stick and his skill level.”
The Wild won’t practice again until Tuesday after having Sunday and Monday off. When it gets back on the ice, the focus will be on special teams.