With playoff spot clinched, Dubnyk will finally sit
On the 39th day he rested. Well, 39th game to be more specific.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has started every game since being acquired by the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 14, a franchise-record 38 straight starts. With Minnesota having clinched a playoff berth with a win at Chicago on Tuesday, Dubnyk will get one game off before the playoffs begin.
Second-year netminder Darcy Kuemper will start Thursday’s game at Nashville. Veteran Niklas Backstrom will be the backup as Dubnyk rests as a healthy scratch.
"I don’t want (Dubnyk) to sit around for two weeks or a week and a half, whatever it would be, and not play," Yeo said on KFAN radio Thursday morning in announcing Kuemper will start. "We felt that even if we played him today it would be too long of a time in between games, between now and the start of the playoffs. So, we’ll give him the rest today and then Saturday we’ll give him one last shot, a chance to get in there and keep his game fresh before the start of the playoffs."
Kuemper, 24, will make his first start since Jan. 6. He suffered a lower-body injury and a week later, Minnesota traded for Dubnyk to settle the goaltending spot. Dubnyk’s has led the Wild on their NHL-best, second-half run.
Kuemper’s last action was in relief of Dubnyk on Jan. 20. Dubnyk was pulled after allowing four goals — the only time another goaltender has been in net for Minnesota since the trade — and Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced in regulation and overtime as the Wild rallied before losing in a shootout.
Kuemper is 13-12-2 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. Kuemper was 2-3 with a 3.22 goals-against average and .891 save percentage with one shutout in a conditioning assignment from Jan. 27-Feb. 8 with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
"He’s been working hard," Yeo said, according to the team’s Twitter account. "Hopefully we give him a good chance to succeed tonight."
Many had wondered if Dubnyk would get a game off before the end of the regular season as Minnesota pushed for a playoff spot. Dubnyk has made 39 consecutive starts dating back to his final game with the Arizona Coyotes, the most in the NHL since Evgeni Nabokov started 43 games in a row for the San Jose Sharks in 2007-08, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Dubnky is 27-8-2 with the Wild, compiling a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
With Dubnyk, the Wild have gone 27-8-3 and lead the NHL with a plus-45 goal differential. Dubnyk has allowed 65 goals in the 38 games. In the previous 25 games before the trade, Minnesota gave up a league-high 88 goals.
"The team has been doing awesome," Kuemper said, according to the team’s Twitter account. "It’s been a fun thing to be a part of. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can."
"I’m definitely excited . . . you got to be ready to compete," Kuemper said.
The Wild will rest a few players with their spot as the top wild-card team in the Western Conference all but set. Yeo told reporters Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter will sit out Thursday’s game.
Minnesota is one game away from tying an NHL record road winning streak, having won 11 games in a row away from home. The Detroit Red Wings won 12 straight games in 2005-06.
Matt Cooke will return after missing 31 games because of sports hernia surgery. Forwards Ryan Carter and Sean Bergenheim will also play.
"Conditioning wise I feel fine," Cooke said, according to the team’s Twitter account. "I’m going to go out and play my game and get up to speed as fast as I can."
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