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Wild’s Matt Dumba meeting, not shrinking from, expectations after contract extension

ST. PAUL -- Matt Dumba was backpedaling to the offensive blue line when J.T. Brown banked a pass to him off the boards. Not exactly a prime scoring posture.

111718.S.STP.WILDREPORT
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (24) controls the puck during the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Nov. 15, 2018. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL -- Matt Dumba was backpedaling to the offensive blue line when J.T. Brown banked a pass to him off the boards. Not exactly a prime scoring posture.

But the Wild defenseman unloaded anyway, rocketing a 55-foot screen shot that beat beleaguered Canucks goalie Richard Bachman in Minnesota’s 6-2 rout of Vancouver late Thursday, Nov. 15.

Nothing about Dumba’s game is going backwards. He is charging ahead and poised for his most productive offensive season in his six-year career.

Dumba’s seven goals are second among defensemen behind Toronto’s Morgan Rielly. He is on an eye-popping pace for 30 goals. No surprise given his lofty expectations to be at or near the top of blue-line scorers.

“I want to be,” said Dumba, who has 51 goals among 94 points in 329 games. “Last year (I) kind of found myself there a couple of times. Yeah, I want to push for that. I’ve got goals in my own head. I want to surpass those hopefully.”

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What goals are we talking about?

“Those are my goals,” Dumba said with a smirk.

It is no secret why Dumba is having so much success so early. Skating alongside Ryan Suter on Minnesota’s top defense pair helps account for his 24:08 of ice time per game, plus a regular shift on the power play.

Bottom line, though, Dumba has learned how to control his heavy shot and fire more accurately.

“His shot’s getting on net; he’s got confidence to use it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “When you look at the past years, at least that I’ve been here, his shot was always 2 feet high or 2 feet wide. Now it’s starting to become way more accurate. And when he is accurate, he’s got the potential to get 20 in this league.”

That is high praise from the finicky boss. Dumba is earning the five-year, $30-million contract he signed in July. He is thriving, not shrinking, from the challenge of living up to the lucrative terms.

“Everyone’s trying to work toward that same goal - that’s winning,” he said. “Winning lots throughout the season so you can be successful in the playoffs. I’m locked in here for five years, and that’s my biggest goal this year. Points, everything, that’s great. They’ll come. But the two points tonight is what we’re after.”

Parise returns

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Zach Parise returned to practice Friday after missing the Vancouver thumping because of illness and declared himself fit to play at home Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.

“It was a tough day yesterday but I feel better today and will be ready to go (Saturday),” he said. “It’s never fun to be home watching.”

Parise figured it was his twins that infected the house.

“Each one of them was sick last week. I figured it was just a matter of time,” he said. “Unfortunately it happened on a game day. With my immune system, I was kind of anticipating this.”

Hot start

Boudreau on the Wild’s hot start - 26 points, second-most in the NHL behind Nashville entering play Friday:

“I’m satisfied with the way we’re playing for the most part, and our record for sure. All those prognostications just make you mad, but it’s early. I don’t put too much into that. We preach if you’re a good team, you don’t lose two in a row.”

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