Wild winger Jordan Greenway didn’t always throw his weight around on the ice.
He didn’t need to when he was younger and towered over the competition.
But now that he’s in the NHL, being a physical presence is part of the 6-6, 225-pounder’s expectations.
And he’s fulfilling that responsibility with a smile on his face.
“It’s a fun part of the game,” Greenway said after recording a Gordie Howe hat trick for having a goal, assist and fight in the Wild’s 6-5 win over the Oilers on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. “I’m not too high-strung of a guy, so it’s hard for me to get real [ticked] off. Usually I find myself smiling. It’s a huge part of my game and something I’ve accepted and something I have fun doing.”
After opening the scoring for the Wild when a shot by Carson Soucy hit him and sailed in, Greenway was caught beaming at Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, who looked agitated after jostling with Greenway in front of the net.
Those two met up again in the second period after Nurse caught winger Luke Kunin with a hit and later had to answer to Greenway in a fight. Once the two separated, Greenway was again smiling while Nurse skated off with a bloody lip.
“When he plays physical, he’s into the game more and good things usually happen for him,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So we hope he plays like that more often.”
Greenway capped off the night by assisting on Kunin’s game-winning goal late in the third, giving him his first Gordie Howe hat trick at any level and another reason to break out in a grin.
“It’s just second nature honestly,” Greenway said. “I mean I don’t know what else I would do. It’s hard for me to get mad so I’m going to smile.”
Staal suits up
Despite getting knocked out of Tuesday night’s game during a scary-looking sequence, center Eric Staal was back in action against the Oilers — scoring an important third-period goal and adding an assist.
Staal left the first period in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks after colliding with a linesman while pursuing the puck up the boards.
“A lot of things went wrong in a split second,” Staal said. “I was kind of reaching for a puck and then the [Ducks’ Derek Grant] hit me, kind of caught me off balance just enough to plow me straight into [linesman David Brisebois], who was trying to jump out of the way.”
Afterward, Staal said he felt symptoms that prohibited him from returning but called his sitting out a precaution. He started to improve as the night progressed and felt even better Thursday after resting Wednesday.
He also received an apology from Brisebois.
“It wasn’t much he could do,” Staal said. “It happened fast, and he tried to jump. I told him he must be working out because it was a heavy hit, one of the hardest I’ve taken this year. I’m just glad I was able to come back.”
Not only did 12 Wild players tally at least a point Thursday, but five (Greenway, Staal, Kunin, Soucy and Jason Zucker) had two. Center Ryan Donato has five goals in his last eight games after scoring, and winger Marcus Foligno extended his point streak to a season-high three games with his goal.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk, who’s been mostly absent from the team since mid-November while his wife, Jenn, deals with a medical situation, got on the ice Thursday morning and is hoping to accompany the Wild on its upcoming three-game road trip that starts Sunday in Chicago.If he did makes the trip, it’s unclear if Dubnyk would play.