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Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury still enjoying every moment

With future Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury being honored last weekend for playing in his 1000th NHL game, it wasn’t a surprise that the Wild emptied the tank on home ice.

The glitz and the glam of the celebration lent itself to an inspired performance from the 39-year-old Fleury and his teammates.

There was much less pomp and circumstance as the Wild traveled to play the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night at Mullett Arena. Not that it made a difference in the way Fleury carried himself. He’s never taken anything for granted in the NHL and he’s not about to start in the twilight of his career.

“It’s always good battles,” Fleury said with a smile after making 25 saves to help lead the Wild to a 3-1 victory over the Coyotes. “You’ve got to find ways to win.”

It helps that Fleury has been playing much better as of late. After a rough start to this season, he has bounced back with a solid stretch of play, winning back-to-back starts since returning from a concussion. That has given head coach John Hynes options as he decides between Fleury and fellow goaltender Filip Gustavsson on a nightly basis.

“We’re going to need both to be able to play at a high level for us to win,” Hynes said. “I think they both deserve to be in the net. I think it’s a healthy competition here. Just having both guys feel that they can be impactful for our team is important for us.”

As much as Fleury’s improved numbers of late have helped the Wild get back into the race for the final playoff spot, his infectious demeanor has helped guide them through the ups and downs of the journey. Maybe it’s cracking a joke to lighten the mood in the locker room. Maybe it’s sprawling across the crease to make a miraculous save.

“His passion for the game is really what has driven his talent throughout his career,” Hynes said. “He still has that drive and the hunger and the ability to play at a high level.”

His teammates have come to appreciate that passion seeing it up close and personal over the past few seasons.

“I think what stands out is how much he loves what he’s doing,” forward Joel Eriksson Ek said. “That’s what has made him able to do what he’s doing right now.”

As the Wild prepare for a sprint to the finish line, Fleury admitted he will be scoreboard-watching rather frequently. He knows the Wild are still trying to chase down the St. Louis Blues for the final playoff spot. If they are able to do that, it means he’ll get more time playing the game he loves.

“I keep an eye on it,” Fleury said. “I like to see where we’re at and what teams are doing. There are teams ahead of us to make the playoffs. It’s definitely been nice to get some points lately.”

Though he’s in Year 20 of his professional career — and might contemplate retirement in the coming months — Fleury still looks like he’s having as much fun as he was in Year 1.

“He’s certainly enjoying every moment,” Hynes said. “He loves the game, and he loves to be around the guys.”

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