ST. PAUL, Minn. — As the Minnesota Wild prepares to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, much of the game’s attention is focused toward players not expected to be in the lineup.
Minnesota (16-11-3) likely will be without No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who suffered a lower-body injury early in the Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over Calgary at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he knew something was up with Dubnyk.
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“Probably around the first break of the first period,” Boudreau said. “(Assistant athletic trainer Chad Krawiec) came up to me and told me that Duby’s struggling. I said, ‘Well, if he’s struggling, he can come out anytime.'”
Dubnyk turned aside all 10 shots he faced in the period before backup Alex Stalock took over to begin the second. Stalock made 16 saves in relief through overtime and stopped four of five Calgary shootout attempts to pick up the win.
“It’s amazing how many times a backup goalie comes in a game and shuts the other team down,” Boudreau said.
The Wild’s two-time NHL All-Star goalie was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s concerning because he’s our No.1 goalie,” Boudreau said on Wednesday. “We want to know. But you can’t race ahead of what the doctors and everybody wants. We’ll see, but hopefully it’s not too bad.”
Stalock, who spent four months in the Maple Leafs organization in 2016 after he was acquired via trade from San Jose, will get the chance he missed last month to face his former team. He was scheduled to start in Toronto on Nov. 8 (a 4-2 Toronto win), but left the team when his wife Felicia went into labor.
“Funny how that works out,” Stalock said. “Obviously first time around didn’t get to get in there, but obviously with them here tomorrow, it will be another chance to get back in there.”
Minnesota did receive good news on the injury front on Wednesday when defenseman Jared Spurgeon practiced for the first time in more than two weeks.
Spurgeon, who has missed seven games due to a groin injury, is not expected to play against Toronto. Boudreau, however, plans to have him on the team’s upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Sunday night in Chicago.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, will be without star center Auston Matthews, who did not skate with the team on Wednesday as he recovers from an upper-body injury. Thursday’s tilt with be the third straight that Matthews has missed since his collision with teammate Morgan Rielly late in Toronto’s win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who has 13 goals and 26 points in 26 games this season, is listed as day-to-day.
“What that means, I don’t know for sure,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “I just know that he didn’t skate again today. That means you’re not playing tomorrow.”
Toronto (20-11-1) suffered its first loss in six decisions this season without its No. 1 center on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The Flyers scored three times in the third period to win 4-2 and snap the Maple Leafs’ three-game winning streak. Frederik Andersen made 35 saves in the loss.
With his team in the midst of five games in seven days stretch, Babcock opted to give his players a bit of a mental break on Wednesday. The team took advantage of an outdoor, refrigerated rink across the street from the team’s downtown St. Paul hotel to have a little fun.
“We looked at the schedule earlier and thought it would be a good opportunity for our guys,” Babcock said. “It’s a game, and you’ve got to have fun doing it, so I thought today was a good day. We still met and talked about our game and what we’ve got to do, but it set us up for some good energy and it set us up for tomorrow.”
The Maple Leafs invited local amateur goalies to participate in an intra-squad scrimmage in which the teams competed for one of defenseman Jake Gardiner’s squirt level trophies provided by Gardiner’s father.
“I think this gets us re-energized, have a little fun, have some laughs and get back at it tomorrow,” Gardiner said.
Thursday’s game marks the 20th meeting all-time between the two clubs with Minnesota holding a 10-9-0 edge, including a 6-2-0 mark at Xcel Energy Center.