Backup goalie Alex Stalock has worn a San Jose Sharks logo for the majority of his career, but he’ll have a chance to play more games with the Wild after signing a three-year contract extension — an opportunity that’s extra meaningful for Stalock since he’s from South St. Paul.
“It’s cool to be able to put the sweater on and play for kind of where you are,” he said.
Stalock started Saturday at Xcel Energy Center against the Blackhawks, his first action since he signed the new $2.355 million, one-way contract on Tuesday.
Not only does the commitment give the Wild stability in net for the foreseeable future, with No. 1 Devan Dubnyk also locked up for the next two seasons, but it gives prospect netminder Kaapo Kahkonen more time to develop in the minors.
“The organization is putting a lot of confidence in me,” said Stalock, who played three seasons at Minnesota Duluth. “But at the same time, it’s on me to live up to that and that’s my goal.’’
Originally signed by the Wild as a free agent in 2016 after logging 62 games with the Sharks over five seasons, Stalock has made an impact on the ice with the team as a capable backup. But he’s also carved out a niche as an uplifting presence off it.
“He’s a perfect backup,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He knows he’s the backup, and that’s great. He comes to work every day. He challenges the players every day. He’s great in the room every day.”
The Wild didn’t make any changes to its defense Saturday after the 3-1 loss to the Stars on Friday, keeping Brad Hunt on the third pairing and recent acquisition Anthony Bitetto idle.
“I thought Hunt’s played well all the way around,” Boudreau said.
Expect Bitetto, though, to earn a look at some point. “He’s going to get his chance,” Boudreau said of Bitetto. “It’s just that he hadn’t played in four weeks either and with the break, he needs to get back into shape a little bit.”
Before the Wild claimed him off waivers from the Predators Jan.25, Bitetto skated in 18 games with Nashville this season — most recently Jan. 4. Overall, he spent parts of five seasons with the Predators and believed he’s ready for a fresh start.
Winger Pontus Aberg missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury suffered Friday. In his absence, the Wild inserted winger J.T. Brown into the lineup — his first appearance since Jan. 17. Brown was sidelined with illness before the break.
Trapped in transit
Many Wild players jetted off to warm destinations during the recent downtime, but winger Charlie Coyle’s trip might have been the most memorable.
After spending the break in Turks and Caicos with his girlfriend, Coyle was scheduled to fly back to the Twin Cities via Toronto, but their flight out of Toronto got canceled.
Coyle tried to book alternative flights, but they kept getting delayed. He also tried to rent a car, but they were all sold out.
“I thought I was going to be in Toronto for the rest of my life,” he said.
Finally, his girlfriend found a Greyhound bus that could take them to Detroit and from there they could take a flight to Minneapolis. The two caught the bus five minutes before it departed at 1 a.m. Thursday after eventually locating their luggage, which was lost.
When they got to the border, they had to get off the bus to show their passports and neither had a winter coat since they figured they’d taxi home once back in Minnesota.
“At one point I had a short-sleeved shirt on,” Coyle said. “Just doing my thing. Just praying this would work, and it did.”
Coyle arrived in Detroit around 6 a.m., and the pair caught their flight to Minneapolis two hours later — giving Coyle enough time to make it to the Wild’s 2 p.m. practice.