In the midst of a wearying stretch of 19 games in 38 days, the Wild got an unusual four-day break from competition last week. No one appreciated that respite more than Mikael Granlund.
The winger said he felt much better after the break, and that’s been reflected in his increased point production. Granlund ended a streak of 13 games without a goal Thursday, when he scored shorthanded to spark a 5-2 victory over Dallas. He’s also chipped in four assists in four games, including two spectacular setups that demonstrated Granlund’s brilliance as a playmaker.
Rest will be in short supply from here on out. After practicing at Xcel Energy Center on Friday, the Wild headed to Dallas for Saturday’s rematch with the Stars, and Granlund hopes to stay on a roll as the team sprints toward the end of the regular season.
“My body has felt a little bit better, and my skating,’’ said Granlund, whose goal Thursday was his 20th of the season. “That makes it a little bit easier. That’s a big part of my game, to move well out there. Hopefully, I can keep it up.’’
In Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss at Nashville, Granlund threaded a perfectly-timed pass down the slot to Eric Staal for a tying goal that allowed the Wild to salvage an important point. Against the Stars, Granlund’s goal broke the Wild out of a sleepy start to the game. In the second period, he turned defenseman Greg Pateryn inside out as he delivered what Zach Parise called “a world-class pass’’ for Parise’s game-winning score.
Granlund had not scored since netting a pair of goals in an 8-3 victory over St. Louis on Feb. 27. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has seen a more energized Granlund since the break, and he was thrilled to see the forward end his drought.
“In games like he played [Thursday], you definitely notice a difference,’’ Boudreau said. “He needs rest. He’s one of those guys that puts everything into it, so he exhausts himself in a hurry.’’
Granlund even dazzled Parise, whose wide-eyed expression of amazement punctuated Thursday’s winning goal. As Parise went to the net, Granlund held the puck in the right circle, danced around Pateryn, zipped toward the goal and slipped a pinpoint pass across the crease and right onto Parise’s blade.
“He’s just such a creative player,’’ Parise said. “He’s such a good passer that you know when you’re playing with him, you’re going to get some good looks.
“When things aren’t coming as easily for him, if he’s frustrated, he doesn’t show it. He just keeps competing really hard.’’
Defenseman Matt Dumba thought he might have had a four-point game sometime in his distant past. He hadn’t had one in the NHL until Thursday, when Dumba delivered a power-play goal and three assists to set a franchise record for most points by a defenseman in a single game.
The goal was Dumba’s 12th of the season, a career high, and he also has reached career-best marks with 46 points, 34 assists, 160 shots and 105 blocked shots this season. On Friday, though, he was eager to look ahead and not behind.
“It felt pretty good,’’ said Dumba, who has eight points in his past seven games. “But we still have a lot of work to do before we close this thing out and hopefully make a good playoff push.’’
Boudreau did a bit of lineup tinkering in Friday’s practice. He moved Jason Zucker from left wing to right wing alongside Eric Staal, and he put Nino Niederreiter with Matt Cullen and Charlie Coyle. Jordan Greenway, who had been playing on the left side with Cullen and Coyle, was shifted to the Staal line and took turns at left wing with Tyler Ennis.
Those changes might or might not show up in Saturday’s game.
“Just experimenting with stuff like that,’’ Boudreau said. “You never know when Tyler’s going to get back in the lineup, and he’s played well on Eric’s line before. Putting Zucker on right wing, we wanted to see how he could feel and handle it.’’
Ennis has been a healthy scratch in the past three games.
Defenseman Gustav Olofsson, who was injured early in the second period of Thursday’s game, will not travel to Dallas. He has an upper-body injury, and Boudreau said he is uncertain how long Olofsson might be out. Olofsson had been a healthy scratch in four games before getting back into the lineup Thursday.