SAINT PAUL, Minn. — If there’s kryptonite that affects Minnesota Wild star goaltender Devan Dubnyk, it might be in the form of the St. Louis Blues.
On Sunday afternoon, Dubnyk and the Wild get their third crack at the Blues this season and are still looking for their first win. Dubnyk is the hottest goalie in the league of late, leading the NHL in all major statistical categories. But in 17 career starts against the Blues, he is 4-11-2 with a 3.58 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.
The Blues come to Minnesota with a 3-1-1 record in December and in the midst of a four-game road trip. They are coming off a 4-1 victory in New Jersey on Friday night which saw defenseman Brad Hunt make his season debut for St. Louis.
Hunt was leading the AHL offensively with 29 points in 23 games. He’s likely to stick with the Blues until they get healthier on the blueline. Carl Gunnarsson missed the last game with a lower-body injury, and Robert Bortuzzo is expected to miss the next six weeks with the same ailment.
The knock on Hunt is his size, but at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, the Blues hierarchy said he compares favorably to one of the Minnesota blueliners he will face on Sunday.
"He’s taller than (Minnesota’s Jared) Spurgeon, and everybody in our league would like Jared," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the New Jersey game, praising his team for their physical play. "We played the game that we’re capable of and we had everybody dug in, playing the same way and we scored goals. The harder we check as a team, the more we score."
The Blues’ three-goal final margin versus the Devils would be a noteworthy cushion for the Wild, who have played six consecutive one-goal games.
"All the games are like this. How many times have we had more than a one-goal game? I don’t remember," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team eked out a 3-2 shootout victory over Edmonton on Friday.
While he’d certainly like his team to find more breathing room, Boudreau likes the demeanor that his team is learning in stressful situations during his first season in Minnesota.
"But if anything, it teaches you how to be calm in a one-goal game, whether you’re up a goal or down a goal, whether you’re pushing or protecting," Boudreau said. "So, I mean, I think it’s good experience and good help for everyone."
While the Blues are dealing with a banged-up blue line, Minnesota looks to be getting healthier. They’ve played six games without Christian Folin, who is dealing with a lower-body injury. Folin, though, began skating in practice and participated in warm-ups prior to the Edmonton game. It’s a good bet he will be back on the ice to face the Blues.
It will also mark Mike Yeo’s first return to Xcel Energy Center since the Wild fired him last February. Yeo was Minnesota’s coach for four full seasons and is now Hitchcock’s top assistant in St. Louis.