CHICAGO – If the Wild has a shot in the NHL Western Conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks, it probably needs its second line to produce the way it did during a 17-6-1 hot streak during the season.
The Jason Zucker-Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi line was shut out in Game 1 on Tuesday night, but the trio combined for 12 shots, five on goal.
“The last few games, I really liked our game,” Cullen said. “It’s just getting back to the game we can play and generating shots and using our speed. It’s coming. ”
During one 28-game stretch during the season, Cullen registered 24 points. During a 24-game stretch, Setoguchi scored 12 goals and had 21 points. Zucker scored four goals in 14 games earlier this season with his linemates and was a crossbar away from winning Tuesday’s game in overtime.
Still, coach Mike Yeo wants more from every line.
“I don’t know if we were necessarily stellar in the offensive part of our game, and I don’t think anybody was, even Cully’s line,” Yeo said. “They definitely generated chances, but it’s the sustained pressure, the sustained time in the offensive zone. If we can force [the Blackhawks] to defend more frequently and for longer periods of time, then it serves us in a couple different ways.”
Cullen, who has been playing on an injured knee, was dinged in overtime when he took what he felt was a knee-on-knee from defenseman Johnny Oduya. He said Thursday he was feeling fine.
“It’s part of the deal,” Cullen said of playing hurt in the playoffs. “It doesn’t hinder me when I play. It feels really good right now. It feels strong and my skating feels good.”
Nik and nicks
Goaltender Josh Harding is expected to start Game 2 with Darcy Kuemper backing him up. Goalie Niklas Backstrom left Tuesday’s warm-ups because of a lower-body injury and didn’t practice Thursday.
Defenseman Clayton Stoner also is expected to miss the game. He logged 8 minutes, 18 seconds Tuesday — just two shifts in the first period because of a hard hit he took in the corner from Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.
Defenseman Justin Falk, scratched in Game 1, was paired with Tom Gilbert in Thursday’s practice. Yeo ruled out right wing Jason Pominville (head) for Game 2. He has missed three games. There was one adjustment to the power play Thursday. Rookie Charlie Coyle was on the No. 2 unit in place of Gilbert.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon blocked seven of the Wild’s 21 shots Tuesday — both were franchise records since the NHL started keeping track.
“Playoffs, you know that any shot can be the difference,” Spurgeon said. “When the time comes and if you’re able to get in the way, why not?”
A few times, Spurgeon had trouble getting to the bench, but he said Thursday he is healthy.
Highs and lows