With all the decisions that come with training camp, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau at least had one pretty easy choice: to keep his high-scoring second line together.
Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund skated again Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. And while it’s only the second day of camp, the flame they sparked last season won’t take long to rekindle.
“I mean, it’s only been a couple days now, and obviously we need to get back to everything, and it kind of takes a few days,” Granlund said. “We played together quite a lot last season, and I think it’s going to come pretty fast. It’s good to be back. It’s good to be with those guys.
“Obviously, it’s a new season. I really hope we can keep doing that and keep getting better.”
Any improvement would be impressive for the 25-year-old, who led the team with 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists) last season when he also set a franchise record for the longest point streak at 12 games. His linemates weren’t too bad either, as Koivu, 34, tallied 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists), and Zucker, 25, nabbed 47 (22 goals, 25 assists) while leading the league with a plus-34 rating.
Zucker, though, echoed Granlund’s sentiment about upgrading last season’s productivity.
“Absolutely, I think we have a lot more to give,” Zucker said. “Last year was a great start for us. It was a good level to be at. I think we can definitely up that.”
One area where the line could develop, though, is rallying later in the schedule.
“Like everyone else, they had a rough March. I think they tired out,” Boudreau said. “But we played them against every top line in the league up until March, and they dominated them. I think all three of them, at the end of February, were in the plus-30s area. That’s pretty good.”
Boudreau added that it took about two months for that line to solidify, since Zucker spent the first several games on the fourth line. But now with a full preseason of jelling ahead of them, time will only fuel the chemistry.
Center Joel Eriksson Ek played only 15 games as a rookie last season, scoring three goals with four assists. But Boudreau has already seen growth from the 20-year-old.
“His stride, he’s so much stronger. He’s faster. He’s bigger,” Boudreau said. “He’s just carrying himself with more confidence, if that makes any sense. Like, he looks like he’s skating out there like he thinks he belongs rather than in awe of what’s going on.”
Eriksson Ek skated on a line with Marcus Foligno and Charlie Coyle, and Boudreau said they are “looking good.”
Still no Parise
For the second straight day, Zach Parise didn’t skate. The winger reportedly injured his back ahead of training camp, and Boudreau termed Parise day-to-day Friday.
“I did talk to Zach, and he said it felt better today,” Boudreau said after practice Saturday. “So I’ll find out more by the end of the day.”