WINNIPEG – Veteran forward Matt Hendricks hasn’t been a regular for the Wild this season, but he drew into the lineup Saturday because coach Bruce Boudreau knew the team needed an emotional lift after losing a fifth straight game, prolonging its worst slump of the season.
And that’s exactly the contribution Hendricks made to help pave the way for a 3-1 win over the Jets at Bell MTS Place.
“He’s such a presence on the bench and in the room, and then he carried it to the ice,” Boudreau said.
Hendricks was a sparkplug throughout his 12 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time, and a tenacious cycle by him and the other members of the fourth line led to the team’s first goal — a point shot by defenseman Matt Bartkowski that flew behind Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck while Hendricks was setting a screen.
Overall, Hendricks put four shots on net, in addition to flexing his versatility by sliding into the faceoff circle three times and winning all three draws.
“I don’t ever want to come out of the lineup,” said Hendricks, a Blaine native and St. Cloud State alum who was with the Jets before signing a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Wild in the offseason. “I know when I get a chance, I want it to be a good night.”
Roving in and out of the 12th forward spot was identified as Hendricks’ role when he joined the Wild. He acknowledged it’s a challenge to stay ready, but he didn’t disappoint with his performance against the Jets.
“It’s not easy, for sure,” the 37-year-old said. “When you’re in the lineup every night, you feel better about your game. You feel more comfortable in your game. You feel more confident in your game. When you’re not getting touches, you’re not on the ice for game-like situations, it’s hard to be able to dig it out of your back pocket when it’s time to go. But [assistant coaches] Darby [Hendrickson] and Dean Evason have done a great job keeping me up and in shape and skating me hard.”
Defenseman Nick Seeler missed Saturday’s game because of an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. To fill out its defense, the Wild summoned Bartkowski from Iowa of the American Hockey League, and he made an immediate impact with his first-period goal.
Bartkowski, who signed as a free agent last summer, logged 10 minutes, 52 seconds on the third pairing alongside Nate Prosser.
“It’s always good when you get to play any games in this league,” Bartkowski said. “I’m glad they’ve seen the work I’ve been doing down there, and it paid off and now I’m here.”
A deflected puck off Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien caught rookie Jordan Greenway in the face in the first period, but he was able to keep playing.