Defensive Wild need more offense vs. Avalanche
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The fact that the Minnesota Wild have scored just one goal in the last seven periods of hockey at home would be a cause of great concern for most NHL teams. And while there's always a desire for more offense, when you're getting goaltending on the level of what Devan Dubnyk is doing lately, you can keep your head above water.
The Wild head into their Saturday night home meeting with the Colorado Avalanche as Dubnyk is coming off his NHL-best fourth shutout of the season — a dramatic 1-0 win vs. the Boston Bruins on Thursday — and leading the league in all the statistical categories. So the recent lack of goal support is less concerning for a goalie that's allowed nine goals in his past nine games.
“It's not my job to score,” Dubnyk said after blanking the Bruins for the second time this season. “It's my job to work with the guys and defend. I have zero complaints with how the guys have been defending for me and playing. You take pride in that. This is a fun group to be out on the ice with right now in our end. You enjoy that time while they're playing as well as they are for me. I got no question in here that these guys can put the puck in the net.”
Although when they played the Avalanche in Denver two weeks ago, it was one of only two times this season that the Wild didn't score, suffering a 1-0 loss when Colorado goalie Calvin Pickard stopped all 32 shots he faced. The Avalanche are just 2-4-1 since then, and are coming off a loss in Dallas where they fell behind 3-0 early, rallied to pull within a goal, but fell short anyway. The nearly-complete comeback didn't draw many words of praise from Colorado's first-year coach.
“I loved our guys' effort for the final 40 minutes, but unfortunately 40 minutes doesn't get the job done on many occasions,” he said. “Especially when you're that poor in the first, that was frustrating to watch.”
The frustration is starting to show for Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon as well, who has just three goals after 16 games. That lack of offense comes after his star turn for Team North America in September's World Cup games which had expectations raised among the Colorado faithful.
While both teams are battling nagging injuries, the Wild are possibly getting closer to full health, as defenseman Marco Scandella has returned to skating with the team and may be cleared to return to the lineup soon. He has missed the last eight games with a high sprain of his right ankle. The Avalanche were without two offensive stalwarts — Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene — in the loss at Dallas, but that did free up ice time for others, and rookie A.J. Greer notched his first NHL point versus the Stars after having been recalled from Colorado's AHL team in San Antonio on Thursday.