Matt Dumba isn't just protecting the blue paint. He's also crashing it.
The Wild defenseman was all the way in the Coyotes' crease when he scored his fifth goal of the season Saturday in the team's road-trip finale, an example of the green light the Wild's blue line has to get involved in the offensive zone.
"We want their legs to get going and join the rush," coach Dean Evason said, "and honestly if they can lead the rush, go ahead."
This isn't a new message.
Evason made it clear last season after he took over as head coach that Wild defensemen had the freedom to roam so long as they weren't pursuing a risky pinch. But the up-ice support has become more visible of late.
In the 5-1 win in Arizona last Friday, Brad Hunt's goal was the fourth game-winner from a defenseman this season, which was most in the NHL. Two of the four victories before that also featured game-deciding goals from defensemen.
"We have such a good group of skating defensemen that we have that opportunity to jump in the rush," Dumba said before Monday's game against Vegas. "When it comes up, one of us wants to go and it's just kind of communicating that with your 'D' partner. Me and [Jonas Brodin] have kind of been taking turns on who goes up the ice."
Although Kirill Kaprizov has usually been the architect of the snazzier scoring sequences, the Wild wants everyone to feel comfortable to make a play.
Actually, the group finds Kaprizov's moves inspiring.
"We don't specifically have a meeting and say, 'Kirill, you can do this and somebody else can't do that,'" Evason said. "We ask each and every guy to be creative as much as he possibly can and wants to in the right areas. We want to carry the puck in and score goals off the rush. Down below the tops of their circles, if you can beat a guy one-on-one and you can be creative, then by all means."
Missing a tooth
Dumba lost a tooth last week, but it wasn't from the collision with captain Jared Spurgeon in Saturday's game against the Coyotes. The tooth came loose after Dumba took an elbow to the face from Ryan Reaves during the Vegas series.
"I haven't seen it," Dumba said of his run-in with Spurgeon. "But he couldn't have done anything. He's just standing there. It's probably on me. I had quite a bit of speed there when I made that move. Just so happened that he was on the other side of the guy."
Evason's antidote for the lack of energy he saw in the 5-2 loss at Arizona on Saturday is for the team to rest, an opportunity players will have during this five-game homestand at Xcel Energy Center since the team won't be traveling between cities.
"We gotta get off the ice, and it's not only physically," Evason said. "It's mentally, as well. It's a grind, but it's a grind for everybody."
Ryan Hartman (lower-body injury) and Marcus Johansson (upper-body injury) remain sidelined, but both players skated Monday.
"They are progressing," Evason said.
Hartman has been out since getting hurt March 1, a four-game absence. Johansson has missed the past 10 games.
•The Wild assigned defenseman Matt Bartkowski from the taxi squad to Iowa in the American Hockey League.
•After playing two games, Hunt was back to being a healthy scratch Monday against Vegas. Carson Soucy subbed in on the third pairing next to Ian Cole.