FRESH – When the Stars were repeatedly denied by Scott Wedgewood during a February game in Arizona, little did they know that he would become key to their playoff chase two months later.
On Tuesday, Wedgewood posted his fifth career shutout, making 25 saves in a 1-0 Stars win over the Lightning. It was Wedgewood’s fourth start as a Star since Dallas acquired him at the trade deadline from Arizona for a conditional fourth-round pick.
In those four games, the Stars have earned seven of eight possible points, and Wedgewood owns a .922 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average.
“He’s played like he played against us in Arizona, when he stole the game for them,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “I love his poise. He doesn’t waste any motion. He’s very confident. He’s very poised. He’s good with the puck behind the net. He’s been a very, very pleasant surprise. You go back to that game in Arizona, that’s what we were hoping we were getting and we’ve gotten it. ”
Wedgewood was acquired last month (the fourth-round pick becomes a third if the Stars make the playoffs) when the Stars once-deep stable of goaltenders took another hit. As Braden Holtby nursed a lower-body injury, Adam Scheel was recalled to back up Jake Oettinger.
Holtby could be done for the season, as he’s been held out of game action since March 4 and off the practice ice since March 16. Bowness said Holtby (currently on long-term injured reserve) has not begun skating. Is he done for the season?
“He could be, yeah,” Bowness said. “Until we see him on the ice, the answer to that would be yes.”
Without Holtby, the Stars needed a goalie to pair with Oettinger, if only to give the 23-year-old starter some rest in the final two months before the playoffs. That’s where Wedgewood came in.
Wedgewood, 29, has been a career journeyman. Drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Devils, Wedgewood has played 49 games in the ECHL and 190 games in the AHL. He’s never been in an NHL playoff chase, was waived earlier this season
“As an athlete, you couldn’t ask for anything better than this at this stage of his career,” Bownesss said. “You bounce around to three different teams, and now you’re in a position to help a team get into the playoffs? It’s great. It’s like watching [Luke Glendening]. Glenny’s missed the playoffs the last few years in Detroit and he’s all in, it’s unreal. “
(Bowness said Tuesday night that Glendening was throwing up on the bench Sunday in Chicago, but remained in the game.)
Wedgewood ($ 825,000 cap hit) has also never signed a one-way contract, but he might have a chance this summer.
He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and his stretch run performances with the Stars could be the key to finding NHL stability for Wedgewood. Perhaps that future comes in Dallas?
The Stars will likely be in the market for a backup goalie behind Oettinger. Holtby is a UFA. Anton Khudobin will be coming off hip surgery. Adam Scheel and Remi Poirier aren’t ready for the NHL. So Wedgewood could be an option the Stars look at.
Games like Tuesday’s win over the Lightning will help his cause.
“You’re going to beat that team, your goalie’s got to be one of your better players,” Bowness said. “Wedgie was fantastic.”
Injury updates: Forward Vladislav Namestnikov’s return from a lower-body injury suffered on Tuesday night has been deemed “week-to-week,” Bowness said. Namestnikov is not currently scheduled to travel with the Stars on their upcoming three-game trip to Canada next week.
Bowness said “that last week, we would hope for that” as a potential return for Namestnikov. Namestnikov has played 11 games for Dallas since the Stars acquired him from Detroit for a fourth-round pick. He’s averaged 12:03 of ice time and has one goal and two assists with the Stars.
Forwards Joel Kiviranta and Alexander Radulov were both on the ice for Stars optional practice on Wednesday afternoon after each player missed Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay because they were sick.
Bowness said Kiviranta and Radulov were feeling better and “there will be a decision tomorrow” relating to their availability vs. Minnesota on Thursday night. With Namestnikov’s injury, if both Radulov and Kiviranta are unable to play, the Stars would be down to 11 healthy forwards.
In that case, they would need to recall a forward from AHL affiliate Texas (likely on an emergency basis). Ty Dellandrea has 22 points in his last 27 AHL games. Riley Damiani has 13 points in 18 games since returning from a concussion. Rhett Gardner and Riley Tufte remain bottom-six options.
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