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Alex Stalock making case to bump Devan Dubnyk; Kevin Fiala can’t be scratched; Eric Staal should be shopped

The Wild’s come-from-behind 4-2 victory on Tuesday night in Anaheim served as a bright spot in what has been a miserable season. But what really can be taken from a game in which the Wild trailed 2-0 early in the second period only to rally for three unanswered goals in the third period?

Here’s a look at four players who played key roles in the victory and what their performances mean to a team that is in the initial stages of a rebuild

ALEX STALOCK

Devan Dubnyk is no longer the Wild’s clear-cut No. 1 goalie and the days of him playing the majority of the games are finished. Despite Dubnyk being one away from playing in career game No. 500, Stalock got the start against the Ducks and he played exceptionally well.

The decision to start Stalock wasn’t that tough for coach Bruce Boudreau, given Dubnyk is 2-6-1 with a 3.68 goals-against average and .883 save percentage in nine games. Stalock improved to 3-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .917 save percentage in eight games on Tuesday by making 29 saves.

The Ducks had a 2-0 lead when Stalock made a key stop early in the second period and suddenly Anaheim’s momentum was halted and the Wild began to rally. But it wasn’t just one big save — or one good game — that provides the reason(s) why Stalock should be playing.

Stalock, unlike Dubnyk, is very adept at moving the puck and that’s huge for a Wild team that is slow and not all that skilled. There is no question that Stalock should start on Thursday night in San Jose.

Stalock also should get used to heavy minutes considering there would appear to be a good chance that Dubnyk is traded this season. He’s in the fifth season of a five-year, $26 million contract that has a modified no-trade clause that lists 19 teams to which he can be dealt.

KEVIN FIALA

After the winger scored his second goal in two games on Tuesday, general manager Bill Guerin and Boudreau need to realize that scratching Fiala is no longer an option for this season. Not with this team.

Wins and losses are not important. What is important is finding out what the Wild have in guys like Fiala and Ryan Donato and putting them in the press box doesn’t accomplish that. Fiala, acquired at the trade deadline last February from Nashville for Mikael Granlund, scored 23 goals in 2017-18 for the Predators.

He had only one assist in his first eight games this season before getting his first against the Blues on Saturday night. Fiala, like many goal-scorers, is going to run hot and cold and there are going to be times he turns over the puck and costs his team a goal. Boudreau might get frustrated but the one thing he no longer can do is sit Fiala.

JORDAN GREENWAY

The winger has yet to score a goal in 13 games but he had his best performance of the season on Tuesday. Greenway had six hits in 14 minutes, 6 seconds of ice time and helped spark the Wild despite not getting a point. This is exactly what the Wild need from the 6-6, 227-pound Greenway, who had 12 goals and 12 assists in 81 games last season. When Greenway is throwing his weight around, it creates problems for opponents.

ERIC STAAL

If you are the Wild, you are thrilled by how the center has been playing in recent weeks. The 35-year-old Staal had two assists in eight games to open the season but has five goals and nine points in his past seven games, including the game-winner on Tuesday.

Staal’s play is good news because it will enable Guerin to pick up the phone and shop the veteran. Staal could be a very good third-line center on a quality team and he could get the Wild a decent return of some sort. Not great but decent.

Instead of dealing Staal at the trade deadline last season, former general manager Paul Fenton decided to sign him to a two-year, $6.5 million extension. It made little sense given the Wild’s situation. What made even less sense was Staal did get another modified no-trade clause.

But that’s not a complete no-trade clause and that means Staal can be moved. There are some who probably think the Wild should hold onto him until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24. There are a couple problems with that. One, Staal is playing well now and you don’t want him to go into a slump and then try to move him. Two, Staal could help a team for the remainder of the season instead of just the last few months.

It’s certainly worth exploring moving Staal as soon as possible and his performance on Tuesday night didn’t do anything to damage his value.





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