WILD REPORT: Connor Dewar’s speed, savvy make him top penalty killer for Wild
Center currently leads the NHL with 3 shorthanded goals
ST. PAUL -- Clinging to a lead in Saturday night’s game in Vancouver, the Minnesota Wild were desperate for a spark.
Not only were they showing signs of fatigue at the end of a weeklong road trip, they were back on the penalty kill after being called for too many men on the ice.
With the Canucks threatening to score, Wild center Connor Dewar intercepted a pass, raced the other way and fired a slap shot to score a shorthanded goal to cap a 3-0 victory.
“Obviously that was a huge goal for us,” coach Dean Evason said. “That gave us a bump and maybe dropped their spirits a little bit.”
That’s been a calling card for Dewar this season. He consistently has been able to create scoring chances on the penalty kill and currently leads the NHL with three shorthanded goals. Asked how Dewar generates seemingly a breakaway per game on the penalty kill, Evason referenced the speed and instincts needed to make something like that happen.
“He’s not cheating,” Evason said. “He’s making good reads of when to go, then he’s used his physical abilities to get those breakaways.”
Though it might seem like Dewar is constantly thinking about shorthanded goals, he noted that his sole focus is playing smart on the penalty kill. Anything that happens after that is a bonus.
“There are role players in this league, and I’m happy to be that for us,” Dewar said. “Just trying to be good on the penalty kill and contribute where I can.”
As for the decision to take a slap shot while on the breakaway — shoutout to former Wild great Brian Rolston — Dewar said it’s something he has discussed with linemate Mason Shaw.
“We’ve joked around the past few practices about taking a slap shot in a game,” Dewar said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve scored on a slap shot in a long time.”
It seems like at least once or twice a season a kid from Minnesota gets to put on a Wild jersey for the first time in front of a home crowd.
It happened with veteran winger Steven Fogarty earlier this season, and now former Gophers captain Sammy Walker is getting his chance.
After making his NHL debut in Canada over the weekend, Walker, who is from Edina, is slated to be back in the lineup for Monday’s game at Xcel Energy Center against the Oilers. He will play alongside center Freddy Gaudreau and opposite winger Matt Boldy.
“He just had a presence about him that maybe he wasn’t intimidated,” Evason said Monday of Walker’s NHL debut on the road. “Now tonight, he might feel a little bit more butterflies than he had. We’ve talked about this, though. He’s not a 19-year-old kid either, right? He’s an older first-year player. Hopefully he can handle it in the same manner.”
For the first time since injuring himself during an Oct. 30 game against the Blackhawks, center Ryan Hartman was on the ice with his teammates at Monday’s morning skate. While it’s a good sign for Hartman as he works through the recovery process, it could be a while before he’s ready to play in a game.
“He’s cleared to practice with us full time, so we’re very excited about that,” Evason said. “To pinpoint exactly when he’s going to play, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to see how he progresses here.”
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