TORONTO -- Both the Wild and the Maple Leafs found out Wednesday morning that each team would be missing an important player for tonight’s game at Air Canada Centre. The Leafs’ news was a blockbuster: superstar Auston Matthews, who has played every game since starting his NHL career last season, will sit out because of an upper-body injury and is day-to-day.
The Wild will be without goaltender Alex Stalock, who will miss a planned start after returning to Minnesota to be with his wife, Felicia, for the birth of their second child.
Stalock’s absence means Devan Dubnyk will start against the Maple Leafs, and probably Thursday’s game at Montreal as well. Dubnyk, always a calm and low-key guy, got a text from Stalock on Wednesday morning to let him know Stalock (pictured) was headed home. It didn’t ruffle Dubnyk, who was a workhorse for the Wild last season and is accustomed to playing every night.
“You wake up in the morning, and you do the same thing, whether you’re playing or not,’’ Dubnyk said. “It’s the normal routine. It wasn’t really much of a knuckleball.’’
Dubnyk is 5-1-1 against Toronto, with a 2.46 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and one shutout. Stalock, who was with the Toronto organization for four months in 2016, has never faced the Maple Leafs.
The Wild recalled goalie Niklas Svedberg from its AHL affiliate in Iowa to back up Dubnyk.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t rattled by the change in plans, either. Asked if this constituted a “goalie drama,’’ he smiled. “It’s good drama, as long as everybody is healthy when he gets home,’’ Boudreau said. “I’m happy for [Stalock]. I hope Duby’s ready.’’
Things were a little more tense on the Maple Leafs side of the injury news. Because this is Toronto, Matthews' injury practically constituted a national crisis.
Matthews, the NHL’s rookie of the year last season, leads the team with 10 goals and nine assists. Leafs media noted that his talent, and his ability to take such a major role for his team, has obscured some of Toronto’s flaws. The Leafs started the season 6-1 and are 3-6 since then.
Matthews had played 98 consecutive regular-season games, a string that reached 104 games including last spring’s playoffs. He said earlier this week he had continued to play despite a lingering injury.
Coach Mike Babcock noted that while someone will play in Matthews’ spot, no one can really take his place. The center is as important to the Leafs’ defense as he is to the offense, typically playing against the opponents’ best players.
“We’ll go accordingly and give ourselves the best chance to win,’’ Babcock said. “Sometimes you get bumped, or you get hacked. Things happen.
“It’s time for us to dig in. We’ve got to play right without the puck. We’ve talked about growing up as a team, and this is a real good opportunity for us.’’
Svedberg, 28, is 3-6-1 with a 2.84 goals-against average for the Baby Wild. He played in the Kontinental Hockey League last season with Salavat Yulaev. A native of Sweden, Svedberg played in 19 NHL games with the Bruins from 2013-15.
The Wild is in Montreal on Thursday night in a back-to-back situation.