Wild coach mum on starting goalie for Game 3
By Andy Greder St. Paul Pioneer Press Facing a 2-0 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, Wild coach Mike Yeo opened Sunday's news conference with a joke. Saturday night, the Wild pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov,...
By Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Facing a 2-0 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, Wild coach Mike Yeo opened Sunday’s news conference with a joke.
Saturday night, the Wild pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, trailing 3-1 in the second period, in favor of Darcy Kuemper, who stopped all 14 shots he faced in a 4-2 loss in Colorado.
With Bryzgalov giving up eight goals in two games, Yeo was asked to confirm the likelihood that Kuemper will start in net in a crucial Game 3 Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
The question: “Starting goaltender (Monday)?”
Yeo acted as if he heard, “Start a goaltender?”
“Yes, we will,” the coach said coyly.
Yeo stated the case for both goalies but didn’t name a starter. He did say that Kuemper looked confident, not only Saturday but in four or five recent practices.
“You could see that he was really starting to feel good about himself and feel good about where his game was at,” Yeo said. “Definitely, he came in and carried that right through into the game.”
At the same time, Yeo didn’t rule out going with Bryzgalov.
“If that were what we chose to do, it would be because, first off, he made some big saves in (Saturday’s game),” Yeo said. “I don’t think we should forget about that. We weren’t playing our game in front of him and this is a guy that has played a lot of really good hockey for us.”
Kuemper kept the Wild competitive Saturday, allowing Marco Scandella to narrow the Avalanche lead to 3-2 late in the third period. But Colorado’s Paul Stastny tacked on an empty-net goal for the final 4-2 margin.
“He came in and stood on his head,” Matt Cooke said of Kuemper. “Listen, Darcy has played well for us all year and unfortunately he had a bit of a concussion issue, so that happens and Bryz stood in and has played great for us.”
Kuemper’s injury had kept him out of the lineup since March 27. He jokingly called it a “body” injury, instead of the typical “upper” or “lower” body descriptions.
Kuemper sat out the last seven games of the regular season. Before that, he struggled, losing four consercutive games and giving up 3.5 goals per outing.
“I didn’t feel that far off,” Kuemper said. “It was a little bit of puck luck and the difference between two goals against and three goals against is a win or a loss in this league. So it was that one goal that was getting in in those games, but just try to stay level-headed and not get too frustrated and things will turn around.”
Kuemper, 23, has been in the playoffs before. He relieved Josh Harding in Games 4 and 5 of last year’s quarterfinals against Chicago and stopped 29 of 33 shots in those games.
“It’s playoff hockey,” Kuemper said. “You dream about playing in that, so to … get a chance to get in that action (Saturday) was a lot of fun. I was excited to get the opportunity.”
Cooke said it’s the play in front of the goalie that matters. Mainly, it’s finding a way to slow the lightning-quick Nathan MacKinnon.
“Whether it’s Darcy or Bryz,” Cooke said, “we have to go in and play Minnesota Wild hockey regardless of who’s in net.”
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