The lineup the Wild utilized in Game No. 82 was unlike the look it had for its regular-season debut, a change that was underscored by who showed up on the scoresheet.
Five players who weren’t with the Wild at the start were on the ice Saturday, and two rookies made the game memorably by tallying their first career NHL points in the 6-3 win over the Sharks Saturday at SAP Center.
Winger Jordan Greenway recorded an assist for his first point, while defenseman Louie Belpedio had a pair of assists in his NHL debut. He became the first player in Wild history to rack up two points in his first NHL game.
“I think I got a little bit lucky with both of them, to be honest,” said Belpedio, who had his parents and a couple family friends in attendance. “That’s what happens when you’re around good players. It was exciting.”
This was Greenway’s sixth game since he turned pro, and he skated alongside winger Mikael Granlund and captain Mikko Koivu with winger Zach Parise getting the night off to rest.
“I don’t really think about me individually,” he said. “I just think about what we have to do to get a win and what I have to do to help the team do that. I think if I do that, I’ll look good and everyone will look good.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau called Greenway a big body with a long reach, which helps him stay in the play.
“I don’t know where he’s going to play [in the playoffs], but I’m sure I’ll find a spot,” Boudreau said.
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s win over the Sharks.
-The Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle unit had a strong effort, chipping in a goal and combining for four points.
But will the unit remain together for the start of the playoffs?
It seemed like the last forward spot could come down to Greenway or Ennis, but it sounded like Greenway had the edge based on Boudreau’s postgame assessment.
Boudreau, however, did acknowledge how key depth is in the playoffs.
“Unless they’re winning every game, I’m sure they’re all going to play,” Boudreau said. “Any time in the playoffs that does anything, it’s amazing how many players they use because you sacrifice so much each game that people get hurt.”
Ennis, who had two assists against the Sharks, said his mindset is to play well every shift, feel confident in his game and be ready.
“Everybody wants to play,” he said. “So my goal is the same as it was, to win a Stanley Cup, and I’m going to stay ready, be ready and play as hard as I can every time I’m on the ice.”
-A three-goal effort by the Jason Zucker-Eric Staal duo was an encouraging sign for the Wild in its regular-season finale.
Zucker scored twice, getting to a career-high 33 goals.
“He seems to be skating really well right now,” Staal said.
And Staal tied Marian Gaborik’s franchise record for most goals in a single season by burying his 42nd.
“Guys were looking for me tonight. I could tell,” Staal said. “A couple looks early and a couple rush chances where I could tell Zucks was looking for me the whole way up ice, but the pass wasn’t there and he makes a good shot. It was just the way it kind of worked out to get that chance at the end of the game there Wasn’t going to miss that one. It was cool. It was fun to have that alongside Marian. He’s a great player and a great goal scorer, so it was fun.”
-With the Wild eclipsing 100 points, reaching 101, it marked the eighth time Boudreau has led a team past the 100-point plateau – every full-length season he’s been an NHL coach.
“We make the playoffs a lot,” Boudreau said. “Now it’s just gotta go far in there.”
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