WINNIPEG – The Wild chose muscle over maturity when it slotted rookie Jordan Greenway in its Game 1 lineup instead of the experienced Tyler Ennis, and the decision paid off.
Not only did Greenway set up center Matt Cullen’s goal, igniting a Wild rally before the Jets responded to corral a 3-2 win Wednesday at Bell MTS Place, but the 21-year-old had arguably his best game since turning pro — an encouraging sign that he can help the Wild the rest of the series.
“I thought he played really well, to be honest with you,” Cullen said. “I was really impressed with how he handled the atmosphere and first playoff game. He made some really nice plays, poised with the puck, protected the pucks, got into pucks in the offensive zone — exactly what you’d hope he would do. I thought he was really good.”
Greenway seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed, and what seemed to help him get acclimated was using his 6-foot-6, 226-pound frame to track down pucks and hold on to them — a skill the Wild could certainly use considering the beefy Jets lineup. Winnipeg had nine skaters on the ice Wednesday who were at least 6-3, and the team racked up an eye-popping 39 hits. The Wild had 31.
“Even if a game is not physical, I always try and find ways to be physical just because that’s really the only way I can get a competitive edge,” Greenway said. “Even though I create space for myself, I can’t really use my quickness to create space for myself like these other guys. So for me, it’s all my body. The more physical it is, the better for me, I think, just because when I’m making contact with guys, whether I’m initiating it or not, I think that benefits me.”
Back to business
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon logged 20 minutes, 19 seconds in his return to action after missing 12 games to heal a right hamstring tear, but expect his ice time to increase now that he’s reacquainted with the pace of the play.
“That first game back it was a bit faster than when I left,” he said. “Just trying to get the breath back and the wind back, just the timing of things. Just trying to get my gaps and stuff like that. I felt good.”
Wednesday was only center Joel Eriksson Ek’s fourth playoff game after appearing in three last year, and the 21-year-old didn’t look out of place.
Eriksson Ek was strong on the puck, had a team-high four shots on net and was resilient — returning to the game after leaving briefly following a crushing shoulder check from defenseman Dustin Byfuglien that dropped him to the ice.
“He was good, and he’s going to be good,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, who mentioned Eriksson Ek wasn’t in concussion protocol when he left the game after the hit. “ … The more experience he gets, the better he’s going to be. But he’s ready to play, and I have no problem when he’s on the ice against anybody.”
Asked if he could switch up the defensive pairings to reunite Nick Seeler with Spurgeon, as the two played together earlier this season, Boudreau said, “We’ll consider everything,” and explained there could be other lineup changes for Game 2.
“Tyler [Ennis] played really good for us in the last [regular-season] game and a lot of games down the stretch, and he’s a veteran,” Boudreau said. “He could play. [Defenseman Ryan Murphy] has played really well for us, too. Like both teams, we’ve probably both got a lot of bumps and bruises because it was fairly physical for a game for us [Wednesday] night. We’ll have to wait and see how everyone feels.”