Dean Evason has a decision on his hands: Break up a line that's playing well with hopes of jump-starting other trios or stay the course and hope that other moves will pay off.
The Wild coach has one forward line — Joel Eriksson Ek centering Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway — producing consistently, with 15 of the team's 47 points this season (31.9%).
Evason, though, would like to get more from offensive threats Kevin Fiala (two goals), Zach Parise (two goals) and Kirill Kaprizov (six points but no goals since the opener).
"We've chatted about flipping them around to help some other lines and/or situations,'' Evason said after the Wild's 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday night. "But every time we talk about it, we keep going back to what's likely our best line from every game.''
Eriksson Ek, in his fourth full season with the Wild, has emerged as more than a defensive centerman. His four goals lead the team, and he has one in three of the past four games and added two assists in that span.
The 6-3, 208-pounder is meshing well with the 6-3, 223-pound Foligno (two assists in his past three games) and the 6-6, 241-pound Greenway (four points in his past four games) on a line that the Wild used last year.
"We keep it simple,'' Foligno said. "We're a line that has to play physical. … Those guys are so good around the net in straight lines, and we've been getting chances.''
Added Evason, "They're certainly not a perimeter group, and they're getting rewarded for it.''
The temptation to move Eriksson Ek to a line with a combination of two of Fiala, Kaprizov and Parise might be difficult for Evason to resist, especially with the Wild being held to one goal Tuesday. Kaprizov has been centered by Nick Bjugstad, Victor Rask and, on Tuesday, Nick Bonino with varying degrees of success.
Minnesota on Thursday again faces the Kings, a team that forces things to the perimeter. With size and willingness to thrive in tough areas, Eriksson Ek might create space for his wingers, and Evason knows he'll be responsible defensively.
"It's a wonderful thing to get labeled a two-way center,'' Evason said. "If you get labeled one way or another, you kind of pigeonhole yourself. … We definitely feel he can produce offensively. He gets looks, and he can shoot the puck extremely well. He goes to the net as well or better than a lot of people in the National Hockey League.''
Talbot remains out
Evason said goalie Cam Talbot, out since suffering a lower-body injury during Friday's game against San Jose, will not play Thursday against Los Angeles. That indicates Kaapo Kahkonen is in line to make his third consecutive start and fourth of the season. Kahkonen is 2-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
The Wild also reassigned taxi squad goalie Hunter Jones to Iowa of the AHL.
Practice optional for most
The Wild on Wednesday held an optional practice that included the team's taxi squad, plus the fourth line of Nico Sturm-Rask-Ryan Hartman, center Gerald Mayhew, defenseman Brad Hunt and goalie Andrew Hammond. Evason chose rest for the remainder of the team, pointing to Tuesday's game.
"We expended a lot of energy last night trying to get back in that hockey game,'' Evason said. "It's going to be a constant thing where we're trying to figure out exactly the amount of rest-and-work ratio. We'll have a real good [morning] skate tomorrow. It's the first time we'll tell the group they have to go on. Normally, it's an optional in the morning.''
Evason added that special teams would be an emphasis in the morning skate. The Wild is 2-for-30 on the power play this season, which ranked 29th among 31 NHL teams entering Wednesday. The man advantage had good looks Tuesday but couldn't get the puck past Kings goalie Calvin Petersen.
"It's a sour note for us. If our power play was average, we would have had more success than we've had,'' Evason said. "We're grinding in there, too, trying to figure out combinations, trying to figure out what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong.''