VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Marc-Andre Fleury is just four victories from becoming the second-winningest goaltender in NHL history, a milestone that is getting most of the attention in what might be his final season.
With five more games, the Wild veteran will become just the fourth goaltender to play in 1,000 NHL games.
“Obviously, I’ve been fortunate,” Fleury said Thursday before knocking on the wooden bench in the visitor’s locker room at Rogers Arena. “Nothing too bad along the way. And fortunate, too, to play long enough, on good teams.
“I just feel lucky — lucky that I could play this long, do what I love, play hockey, and for this many games.”
Fleury will start for the Wild tomorrow in Edmonton, the second of back-to-backs for the Wild on a four-game trip that started with a 5-2 win Tuesday in Calgary. He has 548 wins, three shy of one of his two heroes, Patrick Roy. He has played in 995 games, behind only wins leader Martin Brodeur (1,266), Roy (1,029) and Roberto Luongo (1,044).
“A lot of people, like summer trainers, or team trainers during the season, our medical staff. They always help me stay loose and healthy,” he said. “So, it’s not just me. To get there, you need some help.”
Fleury, 39, was sharp in his last start, stopping 28 of 29 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center, part of a four-game winning streak the Wild took into Thursday’s 9 p.m. puck drop.
He’s playing on the last season of a two-year, $7.5 million contract, splitting time with Filip Gustavsson. Overall, he’s 4-4-2 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .884 save percentage. During training camp, he said he would play the season out before deciding whether to retire.
That hasn’t changed, he said.
“That’s still the way I want it, so I don’t overthink stuff during the season, right?” he said. “I’m just going to keep it going about and try to win some games. It’s a little more fun now, right? Everybody’s in a good mood, smiling again. I still think I’ll wait till the end, yeah.”
Fleury had a mask painted by Dakota artist Cole Redhorse Taylor for the Wild’s Native American Night on Nov. 24. In the subsequent auction to benefit the American Indian Family Center and the Minnesota Wild Foundation, the mask was purchased for $35,100.
A mask designed and pained by Dakota artist Cole Redhorse Taylor was worn by Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury during warmups for the team’s game on Native American Night at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 24. The mask fetched $35,100 in a subsequent auction to benefit the American Indian Family Center and the Minnesota Wild Foundation. (Photo courtesy the Minnesota Wild).
It meant a lot to Fleury, who defied the NHL and wore the mask during warmups before a game against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center. New directives from the NHL this season prohibit players from wearing specialty jerseys, masks, stickers, decals or tape for theme nights — a response to backlash against players who declined to wear Pride jerseys last season — so jerseys created for the occasion, and also auctioned off, were not worn on the ice.
“Very generous of the auction winner,” Fleury said Thursday. “But to me, it was, I don’t know. I just, you know I had four paint jobs on my mask this season, and that was the fourth one, and I wore this mask for 15 minutes, right? It was to honor Native Americans in all of Minnesota, Prairie Island, there, trying to help them.
“To wear the mask for 15 minutes, and they raise a good chunk of money to help the family center on the reservation, to me I just thought was the right thing to do, and it was an honor for me to represent them.”
Kaprizov: ‘I’m good’
Kirill Kaprizov missed most of the last month of last season with a lower-body injury after getting crushed by Jets defenseman Logan Stanley on March 8 in Winnipeg.
When he struggled, by his standards, early this season, the Wild had the injury checked by doctors again. They declared him healthy, and after taking the ice on Thursday against the Canucks, Kaprizov will have played in all 24 of the team’s games.
With two goals and four assists, he has six points in his past five games and is second to linemate Mats Zuccarello (23). He said Thursday he hasn’t felt limited physically this season. “No, I’m OK,” he said. “I’m good.”
“He looks like the guy that you’re coaching against,” said coach John Hynes, who succeeded Dean Evason on Nov. 28. “Honestly, he looks better coaching him because I get a chance to see him every day, whether in practice or games and seeing him around the rink. I couldn’t be more impressed with his love of the game and his talent level.
“But for me what stands out is his drive — his fitness, his skating, his competitiveness. That’s what allows all those things to come out, and it’s been fun to coach.”
Zach Bogosian missed his third game of the season with an upper-body injury but Hynes said he could be available on Friday in Edmonton. “He’s not far off,” the coach said.
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