Wild rookie Jordan Greenway’s first instinct was to pass to linemate Eric Staal.
“He knows how to score,” Greenway said.
But when he couldn’t find a way to get the puck to Staal, Greenway opted to take the shot himself.
And the decision paid off, as the puck sailed in for the Wild’s lone goal in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
“I looked at the goalie,” Greenway said. “He wasn’t really in position, so I just kind of threw it at the net and [it] found its way in.”
The goal was Greenway’s fifth of the season and signaled an opportunity capitalized, as the 21-year-old winger made the most of his time alongside Staal and Mikael Granlund — a promotion to the top-six forwards with Jason Zucker unavailable to draw in because of illness.
“Playing with those two isn’t too hard,” said Greenway, who ditched the cage he wore in practice Friday despite still sporting a smattering of stitches near his upper lip after catching a high stick from teammate Joel Eriksson Ek on Thursday. “They’re both great players.”
It was Greenway’s only shot on goal during the game, but he still made his presence felt in other ways — drawing a penalty and using his 6-6, 227-pound frame to generate offensive-zone time.
“You can see him maturing,” winger Zach Parise said. “He looks really comfortable with the puck right now and making good plays. When you go against him in practice, he’s really tough to get the puck from with his reach and with how strong he is, and I think he’s figuring out how to use that out here. I think he’s playing really well.”
The tension that capped off the 2-0 loss for the Wild Dec. 6 at Calgary spilled over into the start of Saturday’s rematch, an intensity that seemed to confirm bad blood between the Wild and Flames.
“It’s nice to have rivalries like that, and it’s good to get a bit of a hate on for a team,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “It makes for exciting games.”
Despite Flames captain Mark Giordano receiving a suspension for kneeing Wild counterpart Mikko Koivu and Calgary winger Ryan Lomberg also getting banned for two games for instigating a fight with Matt Dumba for the Wild defenseman’s hit on center Mikael Backlund — a sequence that also resulted in a fine for Flames coach Bill Peters — Calgary set the physical tone early Saturday when winger Matthew Tkachuk went after Dumba.
“I was surprised by that because I don’t think we went out everybody charging at Giordano right off the bat,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They sort of initiated, and we sort of took it from there.”
Wild veteran Matt Hendricks eventually did fight Giordano, and defenseman Ryan Suter also dropped his gloves to clash with Sam Bennett — all in the first period.
“That’s not going to be our game all the time, but it’s good when you see guys standing up for one another, standing up for themselves,” Dubnyk said. “We don’t have a bunch of fighters in here, but we have guys that can take care of themselves and you saw that. Once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with that. I thought it banded us together for having to battle with not a lot of bodies. It just kind of felt like that kind of game even though there wasn’t much more of it going forward. But I thought it was good to see.”
Koivu missed a fourth consecutive game because of a lower-body injury, but it sounds like he could make his return to the lineup Tuesday when the team concludes its four-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks.
“The suggestion was that Tuesday would be the best day,” Boudreau said.
After a day off Sunday, the Wild will resume practice Monday, and that’s when Boudreau expects to know more about Dumba’s status. Dumba didn’t play in the second and third periods Saturday.
Winger J.T. Brown was back in the Wild lineup after missing practice Friday to be with his wife, Lexi, for the birth of 8-pound, 22-inch Booker.