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Kaapo Kahkonen awaits next opportunity to stop shots for Wild

Sarah Mclellan, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Hockey

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Kaapo Kahkonen was the go-to goaltender for the Wild's minor league team this season, batting away enough pucks to help Iowa to one of its best performances in franchise history and get recognized as the American Hockey League's top goalie.

But when he will get his next opportunity to play is unclear.

"I'm not stressing about anything," Kahkonen said. "I'm just trying to focus on getting back to the rhythm being on the ice every day."

The Wild traveled to Edmonton on Sunday, embarking on the Western Conference hub city a week before it starts a best-of-five qualifying-round series against Vancouver during the NHL's postseason return without having identified its Game 1 starter.

"We're still communicating and evaluating to make the right decision," coach Dean Evason said.

Although the call will likely come down to Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock, where the organization's goaltending hierarchy starts, Kahkonen's credentials could make him a serious option if the team feels it needs to make a change.

 

"You just have to do your job and hopefully you get to play," Kahkonen said last week on a video conference call. "If not, then you got to keep yourself ready in case you end up being in net at some point."

Kahkonen's strides in 2019-20 didn't just come at the AHL level.

A 2014 fourth-round pick, Kahkonen's development and potential to be a future starter for the Wild was amplified by his 3-1-1 NHL debut -- a string that included the 23-year-old setting the franchise record for most saves in a game by a rookie (44).

Add in his accomplishments in the AHL, like a league-high 25 wins and seven shutouts to go along with the fourth-best goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.927), and the season was a memorable one for Kahkonen.

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