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Wild notes: Matt Dumba earning place among top goal-scoring defensemen

November 18, 2018

The same cast of characters has been near the top of the leaderboard for goals by defensemen in the NHL in recent seasons.

Brent Burns from the Sharks, the Lightnings Victor Hedman and Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But a new name is among the headliners so far this season, a spot Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hopes to maintain.

Last year [I] kind of found myself there a couple times, he said. I want to push for that.

After extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-high three games with his third in that span during a 3-2 loss to the Sabres at Xcel Energy Center, Dumbas eight goals ranked second in the league by a blueliner; only the Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly (nine) had more.

Eight is also more than halfway to Dumbas total output from last season (14), a career-best performance, and this progress seems indicative of a shot that is hitting the net more often than sailing off target.

When you look at the past years, at least that Ive been here, coach Bruce Boudreau said, his shot was always two feet high or two feet wide. Now its starting to become way more accurate. And when he is accurate, hes got the potential to get 20 [goals] in this league.

Over the past few years, Dumba has become more aware of where his shot is going and that control has paid off especially on the power play, where he has already exceeded his production from last season when he had just two. He scored his third Saturday, a point shot that flew just under the crossbar.

It doesnt always shave to pick a corner, he said. Sometimes you just have to get it on net.

Reset time

Since winger Zach Parise was back in action Saturday after missing the game Thursday with illness, someone had to sit out as a healthy scratch.

And for the first time this season, it was center Joel Eriksson Ek in what Boudreau called a reset for the 2015 first-round draft pick.

At this point, this is sort of a take notice that we need a little bit more from you, Boudreau said. He plays hard every night. He does all the things you want to see him do defensively, but we just need a little more.

Eriksson Ek missed six games in October with a lower-body injury and struggled to chip in offensively upon his return. He tallied his first point of the season, an assist, Nov. 9 in Anaheim against the Ducks and followed that effort up with his first goal last Sunday in the 3-2 win over the Blues.

But in two games since, he went pointless with just one shot on goal a tough start in what Boudreau feels is a season that will identify what kind of player Eriksson Ek is in the NHL.

I really believe he can be a 15-goal, 40-point, third-line center and then just get better with that, Boudreau said. But we need that from him, and hes such a strong player in other areas that you dont want to lose him. But we dont want our third-line center getting three goals and eight assists during the course of the year, too.

No changes needed

If it aint broke, dont fix it, right?

That was Boudreaus thought process in deciding how to divvy up this weekends games between his two goaltenders.

No. 1 Devan Dubnyk, who had gone 2-1 in the first half of back-to-backs this season before suffering the loss Saturday, remained in the starter position to face the Sabres, with backup Alex Stalock poised to close out the set Sunday against the Blackhawks as the closer a role hes shined in at 3-0.

And Stalocks skills with the puck may help explain why hes thrived in that challenge.

Alex is a pretty good puck handler and when defensemen are tired in the second game, he helps out an awful lot by being probably the better of the two puck handling, Boudreau explained. So it makes sense to do it that way. Weve done it differently in the past, looking at the opposition. It dawned on me this year that this makes some sense.

Fast start

Forward Charlie Coyle put a season-high six shots on goal in the 6-2 win over the Canucks Thursday, a huge bump in attempts on net that resulted in his first goal in 11 games.

Sometimes it comes in bunches, he said. Sometimes youre doing the right thing, and it doesnt come. Hockeys a weird sport. You just focus on doing what makes you successful as a player and whats going to help your line mates. Thats all Im trying to do.

His goal against the Canucks came in the first period and since that reward seemed to boost him for the rest of the game, perhaps testing the opposing goalie early is key to more success.

You score and you feel good about yourself, Coyle said. I think youre doing the right things and you get those chances, you feed off of that.

Solo skate

Eden Prairie native and former Gopher Casey Mittelstadt took to the ice first for the Sabres during the teams warmup skate, commemorating his first NHL game at Xcel Energy Center.

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