GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nothing encapsulates goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s struggles this season quite like the 500th game of his NHL career.
The milestone moment after Thursday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks was more of an afterthought considering Dubnyk didn’t even start the game, and the decision to roll with backup Alex Stalock in an important game was more or less an indictment on Dubnyk’s play.
“We need wins,” coach Bruce Boudreau explained before the game. “We are going to go with what we think gives us the best chance to win.”
That obviously wasn’t the case; Stalock was lit up in the opening period, forcing Dubnyk into action. The Minnesota Wild’s longtime starter performed admirably in relief, and it sounds as if he will get the nod for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes in Arizona.
If so, it will be yet another chance for Dubnyk to work his way out of the biggest slump he’s endured since coming to the Twin Cities — not that he’s been thinking much about his struggles.
“I know how I feel when things are good and when things are bad,” Dubnyk said. “It doesn’t feel like things should be where they are right now. I guess that’s why it’s frustrating. You feel like it shouldn’t be where it is.
“It’s not fun. It’s a lot more fun to be winning and to have success. You just remember that feeling and try to get back to it.”
It’s hard to look past Dubnyk’s stats this season: a 2-7-1 record to go along with a 3.64 goals-against average and .883 save percentage. Not that he’s been looking much at his numbers.
“You really don’t look at it,” Dubnyk said. “It’s something that is going to take a few games. Obviously, starting 0-5-0 is not ideal and it’s going to take a bit to get the numbers back to where they normally are. But it’s not really helpful to be staring at them every period, or after every game and hoping it goes up. You’ve just got to stick to it and be focused.”
No matter how bad it gets for Dubnyk, he always looks at the glass as half-full, maybe as a defense mechanism more than anything else; it’s almost as if admitting there’s a problem will make spiral into something much worse.
Plus, this isn’t his first rough stretch. When the Wild acquired Dubnyk from Minnesota in January 2015, he was the Coyotes’ backup. The year before, he had bounced from Edmonton to Nashville to the defunct AHL affiliate in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Wild were a second chance, and he dove in headfirst; in 39 games with Minnesota, he was 27-9-2 with a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage, helping the Wild make the playoffs and earning a six-year, $26 million deal with his new team.
“I know how I feel in the net,” Dubnyk said. “I’ve just got to continue to work and compete.”
Dubnyk, 33, insists it’s important not to start grasping at straws and change his game. He has played a decade in the league and knows what it takes to get back on track.
“I’m always working with (goaltender coach Bob Mason) and looking at video whether they’re wins or losses or whether things are going good or bad,” he said. “It doesn’t change now. I’ve just got to work to find a way to get out of it.
“It stinks. It’s not fun to go through it. But I’ve been around long enough and played enough that I trust myself and my game and know that it’ll start to get better.”
Marcus Foligno missed Friday’s practice with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury in Thursday’s loss to the Sharks and is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.