Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno formed the Wild's best line early in the year, and they're the best line now as the regular season is wrapping up.
But the three could make their most impact once the playoffs start because of their style, a physical yet productive blend.
"It's been a great season obviously for our line," Foligno said.
Like other skilled trios in the NHL, Greenway, Eriksson Ek and Foligno spark offense.
The line had a hand in all three Wild goals Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to the Blues, scoring twice and setting up Jonas Brodin for the other. Greenway and Eriksson Ek are both having career years, with Greenway setting a personal points record (30) and Eriksson Ek, the line's center, scoring his most goals (16). Foligno hit the 10-goal plateau Wednesday for the second straight season and fourth time in his career despite missing 17 games because of COVID-19 and a broken foot.
"It's fun to be on that line," Foligno said. "We just feed off each other. We talk to each other a lot, and we've been having some good bounces. The puck's been going in for us, and it's been huge for our team to be playing the way we are."
What makes the line unique, though, is that it scores while relying on a rugged approach.
The three are the Wild's hit leaders, dishing out a total of 11 Wednesday against St. Louis, but they flex their physicality in other ways, too. They thrive on the forecheck, cycling the puck and engaging in board battles, and they don't avoid the front of the net.
So, when the checking gets tighter and the hits become heavier in the playoffs, that shift shouldn't surprise Greenway, Eriksson Ek and Foligno.
They're used to playing like that all season long.
"They can do it all," coach Dean Evason said. "We're very happy with that combination."
Talbot starts again
The Wild had split the previous four back-to-backs between their two goalies, but Cam Talbot was back in net Thursday after starting Wednesday.
"We chatted about it [Wednesday] night, about the workload that Cam had and the way that he conducted himself," Evason said, "and we didn't feel that he was taxed."
After the game Wednesday, Talbot said he'll look to play the way he had been before the Wild collapsed in the third period to prepare for the playoffs.
"I thought when games were on the line and we needed big saves in the past few weeks, I've been making those saves," said Talbot, who turned aside 28 shots from the Blues. "[Wednesday] I didn't make the save that I need to make down the stretch there. Sometimes that's going to happen, but you've got to have a short-term memory when it comes to those ones."
Eriksson Ek plays
Despite leaving the game early Wednesday after colliding with a Blues player near center ice late in the third period, Eriksson Ek was back in action Thursday.
Eriksson Ek did return to the bench after the hit but then left again, which Evason said was the NHL's doing so Eriksson Ek could be evaluated as part of the league's concussion protocol.
"Ek's a big part of our hockey club," Evason said. "Glad to see that he's OK."
Eriksson Ek, Greenway, Ryan Suter and Kirill Kaprizov are Wild players who have skated in all 48 games.