Coverage was tight, with two Golden Knights patrolling both sides of the blue line to limit access, but Wild defenseman Matt Dumba still managed to sneak into the offensive zone with the puck.
He chipped it up the wall to winger Charlie Coyle and then got in position to receive a return pass, which he walked into with a one-timer that sailed by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s blocker.
“Felt like I could jump there,” Dumba said, “but I’m always trying to jump up in the play. However I can do that, if I’ve got to be a little more creative, I’m going to try to do that.”
The Wild offense got off to a tepid start last week, with only two goals in two games, but that one of those tallies is courtesy of the blue line isn’t a surprise — not after the unit combined for a franchise-record 200 points last season, productivity the back end will try to resurrect this season.
“We’ve had success with that, for our defensemen being able to help generate points and move the puck,” Dumba said. “So I definitely just want to keep on that same mentality and not try to change too much. I think the points will come.”
Of those 200 points, which ranked as the second most in the NHL behind only the Predators’ 206, a quarter of them belonged to Dumba, who registered career highs in goals (14), assists (36) and points (50) in 2017-18.
While some of his chances are dependent on what the action presents to him, he also recognizes he has a responsibility to instigate his looks. And regardless if the opportunities result in goals, Dumba’s outlook is the same.
“You’ve just got to keep shooting,” he said. “I’m a big basketball guy. So if Kobe [Bryant] was missing his shots, he just kept shooting. Kind of having that mentality, just always keep shooting no matter what, I think that’s kind of the approach that I’ve started to take.”
Dumba was the only Wild defenseman to chip in a point during the first week but with the same top-four back on the ice this season, it’s possible the unit picks up where it left off and continues to be a significant contributor at the other end of the ice.
“We definitely have potential for that,” Dumba said. “It’s just getting into more games, more situations. We’ve kind of had a slow start with two games and then this gap [in the schedule]. It’s going to be good for us once we start playing every other day.”
The Wild resumed action Thursday, edging the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime following a four-day break with a new face in the lineup. Winger J.T. Brown made his team and season debut after being a healthy scratch the first two games.
“You ask anybody who’s sitting out a game, nobody wants to sit,” said Brown, who was expected to have his dad and former Vikings running back Ted Brown in the crowd at Xcel Energy Center. “Everybody wants to play. I think at the end of the day, everybody wants to win but I think you do want to play. Everybody wants to play but at the same time, you can’t do too much. You’ve just got to make sure you’re doing what’s asked of you.”
Being a catalyst for energy who can push the pace is what’s expected of Brown after he signed a two-year, $1.375 million contract as a free agent in the summer and after a sluggish start for the offense, those are certainly areas the Wild can improve.
“You’ve just got to just remember why you’re here,” Brown said. “That’s part of the reason why I think I was brought in to use my speed, make it a hard time for their defensemen in the offensive zone. That’s the kind of things I’ve got to remind myself to make sure I’m doing them every shift.”
Ready to go
Forward Luke Kunin, who was assigned to the American Hockey League on Sunday as he continues to work his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, is expected to play his first game Friday when Iowa plays host to the Texas Stars.