In Wild forward Jordan Greenway’s first full NHL season, he’s been reveling in watching the big-name players on the roster work, as many did in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime victory over Chicago.
“Most of us look up to those guys — Mikko [Koivu], [Eric] Staal, [Mikael] Granlund, [Zach] Parise, to kind of lead our team and to step up in big situations, and they have,” Greenway said. “They’ve helped me a ton, even in the locker room, in any situation. And then to be able to go out on the ice and kind of follow their lead, it’s special.”
One name Greenway didn’t mention was winger Jason Zucker, who had two goals — including the overtime winner — and an assist against Chicago. The 26-year-old earned a new five-year, $27.5 million contract this past summer and is looking to improve on his career-best 64-point season last year.
Zucker put the onus on himself and the other top players on the roster to bring the Wild out of its scoring rut Thursday, making it clear he’s aiming to become one of those team leaders.
“He’s got to that age that he’s played enough, he’s going to be around long enough, that I think he wants to be a leader,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So hopefully he can continue to play like that.”
Zucker said he loves putting that responsibility on himself and holding himself to the standards of other veteran leaders on the roster.
“It’s great. For me, it’s something that I want to make sure I’m playing that way every night,” Zucker said. “It’s something that kind of comes with the territory now, and you have to step up and play your role and do what’s asked of you.”
Eriksson Ek’s exit
Before practice officially started Friday at TRIA Rink, winger Joel Eriksson Ek was skating around warming up, wearing his yellow jersey along with linemates Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. But he would soon make a quick exit, disappearing down the hallway to the locker room. J.T. Brown, as one of the extra men on the fourth line, took his place on the third line.
Eriksson Ek started Thursday’s victory on the top line alongside Staal and Zucker before flipping down to the third line so Greenway could try his natural winger position instead of center.
But the 21-year-old did miss a few shifts in the third period Thursday.
“He’s a little sore, but I haven’t talked to any doctors or anything yet so I don’t have any idea,” Boudreau said of what could be ailing the Swede. “I have no idea [if he’ll play Saturday]. I don’t know what’s happened. I don’t even know why he left the ice, quite frankly.”
Jordan Staal, Eric Staal’s younger brother by almost four years, already has a three goals and two assists through four games with the Wild’s opponent on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes. Eric Staal has one goal and two assists in three games.
“Going to have to keep an eye on 11,” Eric Staal said of his brother. “I’ve got some work to do to catch him. But I’m looking forward to hopefully trying to start that chase [Saturday] and for us to get the win at the end of the night.”