For Alex Stalock, everything starts with his feet. When the Wild goalie is playing well, he is comfortable and solid on his skates, which enables him to establish his position and move with speed and agility.
Those feet have carried Stalock to superb performances in his past two games, including a 3-2 victory Thursday over Tampa Bay. He helped to hoist the Wild out of a serious funk, stopping 18 of 20 shots as the team ended a four-game winless streak. It was his first game since Jan. 9, when he turned away 35 of 37 shots in a 2-1 loss at Calgary.
Thursday night, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said “we’ll have to talk about it” when asked whether Stalock might start Saturday vs. Dallas at Xcel Energy Center. He wouldn’t elaborate Friday, either, after a practice at Tria Rink. Whenever that next appearance comes, Stalock plans to put his best foot forward.
“The foundation for me is, I have to have good feet,” said Stalock, who is 10-7 this season. “I have to be set, and I have to be quick and strong.
“When that gets lazy and sloppy, that’s when my game starts not being sharp. That’s one thing I got back to really focusing on, being crisp and staying with it. Having that strong base I’ve worked on, it’s given me a chance every night.”
Stalock’s 21 starts and 1,276 minutes are the second-highest season totals of his career. He leads the Wild with 10 victories, a goals-against average of 2.96 and save percentage of .903.
With 35 games remaining, Stalock could surpass his career highs of 23 starts and 1,495 minutes, set with the Wild in 2017-18.
Hockey Day is here
Boudreau won’t be watching the high school and college games during Saturday’s Hockey Day Minnesota, but he has an appreciation for the unofficial holiday. He considers it “a big deal,” and he made sure the players were aware of that.
“We take pride in Minnesota, of our hockey roots, our hockey heritage and the amount of people that play the game up here,” Boudreau said. “When it’s Hockey Day in Minnesota, you take pride in it. And hopefully, they will again tomorrow.”
The Wild-Stars game is the last of five to be played as part of Saturday’s Hockey Day menu. All the games will be televised on FSN or FSN Plus.
• Boudreau thought giving his team a day off Wednesday made a difference in its play Thursday. He thought about granting players another rest day Friday, but when the Wild chose to cancel Saturday’s morning skate because of weather concerns, he decided to hold a brief practice.
Though the Wild has only three games remaining before the NHL All-Star break and its bye week, Boudreau said managing his team’s workload will continue to be important.
“No matter what happens, you want to make sure they’re at their best at game time,” he said. “Not at their best at practice time, or in the afternoon of practice time, but right at game time. So that’s what we’re trying to manage: to get them ready for game time to play.”
• Defenseman Brad Hunt, unavailable to play Thursday because of illness, did not practice Friday. Hunt came out on the ice, but Boudreau noticed him coughing and sent him off. “The last thing we need to do is give it to other people,” the coach said.