Former UND goaltender in mix as Wild scramble to replace injured Marc-Andre Fleury
He suffered the upper-body injury in Tuesday’s loss to the Predators in Nashville.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild are more than a month into the season and they still can’t seem to catch a break.
With various players already out of the lineup because of injuries, veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been added to that growing list. He missed Wednesday’s practice with an upper-body injury and will not play in Thursday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The upper-body injury occurred in Tuesday’s loss to the Predators in Nashville. Asked about the severity, coach Dean Evason said Fleury got evaluated by team doctors before Wednesday’s practice. He did not provide any details beyond that.
“I don’t know,” Evason said shortly after getting off the ice. “I have not been downstairs (to see the trainers) yet.”
Though it’s unclear exactly how long Fleury will be out, Evason said the situation is serious enough that the Wild will call up a goaltender from the minors. It likely will be veteran and former North Dakota netminder Zane McIntyre as young Jesper Wallstedt, the Wild’s top prospect, still needs some seasoning with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
It will be a significant blow to the Wild if Fleury has to miss an extended period of time. He has rounded into form as of late after a slow start to the season and currently has a 6-4-1 record this season to go along with a 2.80 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
“I didn’t change my game,” Fleury said last week when asked about his turnaround. “Just got back on the ice and practiced.”
In the meantime, Filip Gustavsson will step into the goal as the unquestioned starter for the Wild. He has a 1-3-1 record this season to go along with a 2.81 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He earned a shutout in a 1-0 win over the Ducks last week before suffering a 3-2 shootout loss to the Sharks over the weekend.
“He’s made some incredible saves,” Evason said of Gustavsson. “He’s held us in hockey games. He’s given us a chance every night he’s been in there. We feel very, very confident with him in the net.”
As for Gustavsson, his confidence in himself has grown over the past couple of weeks, as well. He has worked tirelessly in practices and leaned heavily on Fleury throughout the process.
“He’s so competitive out there on the ice,” Gustavsson said of Fleury. “If he sees me doing extra because I’m not playing that day, he stops by and wants to do it too just to compete a little bit more.”
Now that Gustavsson could be filling in for Fleury for the foreseeable future, it would help if the Wild could bust out of their scoring slump. They haven’t been able to find the back of the net with any sort of regularity over the past week. Not that Gustavsson has any plans to change his game.
“No, I don’t try to put more pressure on myself,” Gustavsson said when asked if the scoring slump impacts the way he approaches things. “I trust that my teammates are going to find a way to score a couple of goals. I just try and do my part. Then the rest will come.”
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