WINNIPEG – For much of the season, as the Wild was racking up victories, the team’s lineup was a model of consistency.
But difficult times sometimes call for more extreme measures. And that brings us to Sunday’s game against the Jets at MTS Centre, when coach Bruce Boudreau made some bold moves. Including:
• Putting Devan Dubnyk in goal on the back end of back-to-back games.
• Once again shuffling his lines. He made Jason Pominville a healthy scratch for the first time as a Wild player. And he changed up his lines again, putting Eric Staal between Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle, Martin Hanzel between Nino Niederreiter and Ryan White, and Eric Haula between Tyler Graovac and Chris Stewart.
He also returned defenseman Gustav Olofsson to the lineup. That meant Jordan Schroeder, Pominville and Nate Prosser were scratched.
It speaks to the urgency Boudreau — whose postgame meeting with the media following the 5-4 loss lasted only 28 seconds — feels.
Pominville has struggled of late, a difficult stretch since the team’s bye. And this was after he caught, and recovered from, the mumps. From Jan. 7 through the All-Star break, he had 24 points in 22 games. But he had no points in his past four games.
If there is one thing Dubnyk and the rest of the team agrees on, it’s the need for better play in the defensive end.
The Wild fell behind 4-0 Sunday, with all four goals coming from between the circles. That included Andrew Copp flying down the slot, Adam Lowry in the slot, Ben Chiarot skating unchallenged from the sidewall to the crease and Dustin Byfuglien’s backhand goal.
The Jets managed only 21 shots on goal. But they scored four goals on their first eight shots.
“It’s a tough way to start a game,’’ Dubnyk said. “We did a did a good job, put a lot of pucks at their net; on the other side of the red line things were good. But, unfortunately, there were a couple plays at the start of the game you don’t want to give up. … The fourth one’s on me. I have to make a save on that puck.’’
Dubnyk said the Wild doesn’t need to change anything in the offensive zone. But: “We don’t need to limit them to 20 shots, if that means that five of them are going to be between the hashmarks. I said after the Columbus game [on March 2], I don’t know if it got misinterpreted as the easiest 40-shot game I’ve ever had. What I meant was it was a very controlled game. And we played extremely well defensively. And I think right now we’re just a little bit tight.’’
His teammates agree.
“It’s a common denominator with the goals that are being scored on us now it’s the middle of the ice,’’ Chris Stewart said. “We have to toughen up defensively, protect our net, protect our goalie.’’
Staal played in his 1,000th NHL game Sunday. Wild players wore T-shirts under their sweaters honoring that fact. Staal didn’t get a point, but he finished the game a plus-1.
It made for mixed feelings for Staal.
“We haven’t been playing well here in this last stretch,’’ he said. “But in the overall grand scheme, it’s a special moment for sure. It’s an honor to play this game.’’