Wild's Matt Dumba looking to redeem himself after costly mistake
ST. PAUL—After making a careless pass that cost his team the game in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba is back in the lineup with a chance to redeem himself in Thursday's game against the Montreal Canadiens.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Dumba said. "I wish there was a game yesterday. I just wanted to get on the ice and play the game I know I can play."
Dumba was benched for the final 19 minutes, 17 seconds of Tuesday's game after his egregious error led to the winning goal from Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers. Dumba certainly earned the benching after lazily flicking a no-look pass behind him on his opening shift of the third period that Ehlers intercepted and turned into an easy score.
Dumba took the blame in the locker room afterward, adding that he felt like he let his teammates down. "I know that was my fault tonight," he said. "It's like a pick-6 that the guy runs back to the house."
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau tore into Dumba after the game, his patience clearly starting to wear thin with the fourth-year blue liner.
"He just hasn't been playing that well," Boudreau said. "He's a good player that maybe I've set the bar pretty high for him, and he hasn't reached that bar."
There is a reason for those high expectations.
Dumba was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and can be a dynamic offensive blue liner.
The Wild like him so much that they traded away wingers Erik Haula and Alex Tuch to Vegas during the offseason to make sure the Golden Knights didn't take Dumba in the NHL Expansion Draft.
It remains to be seen, though, whether that was the right move, as Dumba has struggled with consistency to start the season.
"We can teach and show and do this," Boudreau said. "He's got to do the stuff. He's been in this league four years now. He's just got to do what he does when he's playing good. I don't know what else is on his mind. ... He's got to come to the game better prepared."
Asked after Thursday's morning skate if he considered benching Dumba for another game to emphasize his point, Boudreau said, "Well, I mean, it crossed my mind. In the end, I thought 19 minutes, (17 seconds) was enough. Hopefully he got the message."
Dumba has had a lot of time to think about it, thanks to Wednesday's scheduled off day. While he admitted it was probably good for him to get away from the rink, he struggled to let his mistake go.
"It's hard," Dumba said. "In this world we live in everyone's got something to say. ... I just have to look forward and take the positives out of my game lately and try to bring them all together for tonight."
Dumba said it has helped that his teammates have supported him.
"Yeah, I mean, everyone has had something like that happen to them," defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. "It was nice to have the day off yesterday, and I think today he was back positive."
"I can guarantee that he was probably thinking about it his whole day off," winger Chris Stewart added. "It's not like he was trying to make the team lose. He wants to do everything he can do to help the team win. ... The best thing about this game is he has a chance to respond tonight. I'm sure he's pissed off about it, and I'm sure he'll step up tonight."
Dumba said he thinks he's been overthinking things this season, though he struggled to put his finger on the exact reason for his struggles.
"I haven't been playing like myself, and I want to find that and start getting that confidence back and play the game I know that I can," Dumba said. "I know how I feel when I'm playing my best, and I want to get back to that."
"You also want to make sure he doesn't try to do too much," Stewart said. "The only thing Matt Dumba has to do is be Matt Dumba. That's all we need him to be. Just being himself is good enough for us."