No NHL team has been better than the Minnesota Wild when playing short-handed this season.
Through their first nine games, the Central Division-leading Wild have allowed just one power-play goal, which is best in the league.
But a recent rash of injuries means that Minnesota’s ability to play short-handed might get an interesting test on Tuesday, when the Wild (6-2-1) open their November slate with a home game versus the Buffalo Sabres.
They were already without defenseman Marco Scandella and left wing Zach Parise, both of whom are listed as week-to-week with lower body injuries. They also lost forward Zac Dalpe to a knee injury and forward Chris Stewart to illness.
On Monday, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau led a practice with just 14 healthy skaters, and general manager Chuck Fletcher may need to perform some salary cap gymnastics to have 18 skaters in uniform to face the Sabres.
Of course, one Wild player sure to be in uniform is goalie Devan Dubnyk, who is riding a career-best streak of not allowing a goal in three straight starts.
“He’s healthy, which is great,” Boudreau deadpanned on Monday, shortly after it was announced the Dubnyk was the NHL’s Second Star of the Week for his 180-minute shutout streak. “What can I say? He stopped 94 shots last week.”
Just as often as he’s deflecting pucks these days, Dubnyk is deflecting credit to his teammates for the success.
“It’s the guys in front of me giving me the opportunity to read,” said Dubnyk, who blanked the Sabres 4-0 in Buffalo last week. “When you can get your reads and be confident about who’s available and who’s not on the ice, I just need to be patient and sit on pucks.”
The Sabres (3-3-2) are not immune to the injury bug either. After winning 3-1 in Winnipeg on Sunday, they learned that a much-anticipated homecoming for a former University of Minnesota star won’t happen on Tuesday.
“Hudson Fasching did not practice today, and that’s an indication of where he is with his groin. He will not be able to play (Tuesday),” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. Fasching, a forward who signed with Buffalo at the conclusion of his college season last spring, played less than a minute in Winnipeg.
After a relatively light schedule in October, the Sabres head into a stretch where they’ll play seven games in the first 12 days of November.
“This picture was coming down the road where we know we’re going to be playing every other day, some back-to-backs and a ton of hockey in November,” said Bylsma, whose team has won two in a row. “You don’t have a ton a practice time either, it’s game after game after game, and it’s time for us to make some hay.”
He’ll no doubt look to forward Kyle Okposo, another former University of Minnesota star who signed with Buffalo over the summer. He is tied for the Sabres’ points lead, and has eight in his 13 career games versus the Wild.
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