DENVER – A three-game win streak will be waiting for the Wild once it reconvenes after an eight-day layoff that starts with the NHL All-Star break, a run that has lifted the team to the third spot in the Central Division.
And perhaps not surprisingly, this climb has been accompanied by a spike in production from the team’s offensive leaders – a trend that was at the forefront of the group’s 5-2 victory over the Avalanche Wednesday at Pepsi Center.
“It’s nice to help contribute on the scoresheet,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “When we’re playing that role, that’s what we have to do.”
Six of the team’s top seven point-getters have chipped in at least a goal during this three-game stretch, and all eight of its point leaders have managed at least a point.
Among the headliners are center Eric Staal, who’s scored three times in his last two games and boasts nine points in his past six, and Coyle has a goal in back-to-back contests – notching four points in his last three.
The top defensive pairing has also been involved.
Jared Spurgeon has 10 points, including four goals, in his last 12 games, ranking tied for second among NHL defensemen in goals and tied for fifth in points in that span.
And Ryan Suter went into the break with three points in his last two games. His goal against the Avalanche, No.6 on the season, matched his output from 2017-18.
“We’re finally getting going, getting some breaks for us,” Suter said. “Hopefully we can continue that.”
More subtle plays were also critical for the Wild.
Winger Pontus Aberg kept the play alive in the Avalanche’s zone with a save at the blue line during a Wild power play – which led to a holding penalty by defenseman Ian Cole to give the Wild a 5-on-3 look that it converted.
And defenseman Nick Seeler had three shot blocks in the same shift to help set up an eventual insurance goal by Coyle.
“That’s huge,” Coyle said.
Overall, the power play contributed twice, encouraging output for a unit that’s been struggling to recalibrate since the loss to defenseman Matt Dumba to a torn pectoral muscle.
Both goals came during a 5-on-3 advantage, but it looks like the units – which features newbies in Aberg and defenseman Brad Hunt – is finding a groove.
“Obviously, it gets easier game-by-game,” said winger Mikael Granlund, the architect for both tallies Wednesday. “But we know we can do better.”
After starting his Wild debut alongside Jonas Brodin, Hunt ended it next to Nick Seeler – a change that seemed to suit the recently-acquired defender as he seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed.
Overall, Hunt logged 16 minutes, 50 seconds while finishing a minus-1.
“He struggled early on,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “ … But in the third, he looked more at home. He was making some pretty nice plays, and that’s what we got him for. Let’s understand he hasn’t played since Jan., and let’s also say he’s played 13 games. … So we gotta get him in hockey-playing shape, and I know he keeps himself in good shape; I’m not saying that. But he’s going to need a few games under his belt.”