Like many goal scorers, there are times when the Wild’s Thomas Vanek’s attention to details on the defensive side of the puck wanes. Even his pal Zach Parise sarcastically calls him “Selke.”
But with the exception of one game nine days ago in Anaheim, Vanek pleased coach Mike Yeo with his effort and overall play defensively this season. That’s why Yeo is excited Vanek has gotten compensated, so to speak, with four goals in eight games.
Last season, it took Vanek until Dec. 16 to hit that number.
“We as a coaching staff are very pleased with what we’ve seen from Thomas,” Yeo said. “Him getting goals is one thing, but to me it’s as much about how he’s playing without the puck.
“He’s digging in with the system, he’s digging in defensively. When a player is doing that stuff, as a coach, you’re real pleased he’s getting rewarded for it.”
Yeo said he feels even though Vanek’s greatest strengths aren’t without the puck, “that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good player without the puck. He’s been working at it. He understands we have a way that we want to play, and I would say this year more than ever he’s really trying to push in those areas.”
Vanek, who had major abdominal surgery in June after playing the entire second half with a sports hernia and a torn groin, said his solid play just comes down to being healthy.
“We all play hurt. I play hurt, too. Right now I’m not,” Vanek said. “It feels good to be out there not lagging my leg behind.”
Still, Vanek turned into more of a playmaker last season and so far Yeo loves “the fact that he’s shooting more pucks. Look at a couple of the goals he’s got this year, I don’t know that he was taking those shots last year.”
Despite some glorious scoring chances this season and being part of arguably the Wild’s most dangerous line thus far with Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter, it took until the eighth game of the season Sunday in Winnipeg for Jason Zucker to score his first goal.
It happened fast — 10 seconds in for the fastest goal in club history.
“You think about it, of course,” Zucker said of the doughnut in the goal column.
“But I was just telling myself, ‘Just keep playing the same way, and things will happen.’ I was getting the chances, they just were not going in for me. I’ll start getting mad when I’m not getting chances. I was getting chances before, I just wasn’t burying them.
‘‘So it was good to get that one.”
The Wild took Monday off, but goalie Devan Dubnyk, who hurt his knee in Saturday’s game against Anaheim, was scheduled to get treatment. It will be determined Tuesday morning if he can start against the Edmonton Oilers.
Since being traded by Edmonton two years ago, the former Oilers first-round pick is 5-1 against his old team with a 0.99 goals-against average, .960 save percentage and one shutout.
• Jets forward Alex Burmistrov escaped suspension but was fined $4,166.67 — the maximum allowable — for his elbow on Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon.
• As part as the Wild’s Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Tuesday, Wild players will wear lavender Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during on-ice warmups (will be auctioned on Wild.com) and Wild wives and girlfriends will collect new, unused pajamas at entrance gates of Xcel Energy Center before the game (will be donated to local pediatric hospitals). Dasherboard signage around the rink will be lavender for the night.
• The Wild reassigned winger Kurtis Gabriel, who didn’t end up making his NHL debut Sunday.