As one of the newest members of the Wild, winger Mats Zuccarello wanted to settle in with the team quickly and prove the caliber of player he is.
“Especially these guys in the West,” said Zuccarello, who spent the bulk of his career in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers. “They probably never seen me play that much. So you just want to show them that you’re good.”
But he also didn’t want to step on any toes during his arrival, instead preferring to take his time to get to know his teammates and where he fit in the group.
And a month into the season, Zuccarello feels the transition is going well — a process that passed a significant milepost Wednesday when Zuccarello scored his first goal with the Wild.
“I really enjoy the group of guys,” said Zuccarello, who buried his second goal Saturday against the Blues at Xcel Energy Center. “I think they’re going to get to know me a little better, too. I think that transfers on the ice, as well.”
Before tallying his first in the 2-1 loss to the Blues in St. Louis, Zuccarello chipped in two assists in abbreviated action with the team (eight games).
The 32-year-old missed four games with a lower-body injury, but since his return he’s found a groove with center Eric Staal and winger Jason Zucker.
“You can feel the confidence out of both of them with certain plays that we’re making,” Staal said. “Hopefully that just keeps growing.”
After Staal set up Zuccarello’s goal Saturday, a one-timer on the power play, the three had combined for 16 points since Oct. 22 — the 3-0 win over the Oilers when they started to occasionally skate together after winger Jordan Greenway was injured.
Zuccarello said being more comfortable with the puck and the Wild’s system has keyed his recent uptick in production. And according to Staal, who crossed paths with Zuccarello when Staal was with the Rangers for part of the 2015-16 season, that’s when Zuccarello can be a steady contributor in the offensive zone.
“I know what kind of player he is,” said Staal, whose brother Marc (a Rangers defenseman) is one of Zuccarello’s best friends. “He’s a guy that once he’s comfortable, I think he can generate a lot and bring a lot offensively to this team. I just think right now we’re moving pucks quickly and hitting holes, and when you’re doing that consistently, you’re going to get offensive chances and looks and it’s just a matter of time with those guys’ talent that we’ll score. We just have to make sure that we’re playing smart at both ends of the rink and doing our best to generate as much as we can.”
Defenseman Nick Seeler made just his third appearance of the season Saturday after sitting as a healthy scratch the previous six games and 11 of the first 13 overall.
Seeler replaced Carson Soucy on the third pairing next to Brad Hunt.
“He hasn’t played a home game yet,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s been a tremendous soldier and just practicing hard and not saying a word. I think it’s his turn.”
Saturday was the 500th game of Jonas Brodin’s career.
Brodin, 26, became just the fourth defenseman in Wild history to reach the plateau and only the seventh skater.
“It’s been pretty quick,” said Brodin, who was drafted 10th overall in 2011. “It’s flown by, I think. So it doesn’t feel like . [I’m] getting up there in games.”