When he was sitting on 39 goals, Wild center Eric Staal sensed an urgency to score one more to climb to 40 — the same feeling he gets when he is idling at nine, 19 or 29.
But the 33-year-old didn’t circle that benchmark as a target for the 2017-18 season: “I don’t even usually think like that.”
What Staal does believe in, though, is preserving the confidence that comes from a scoring streak for as long as possible. And ever since the All-Star break, he’s been steadily clutch — a sign of the consistency that’s boosted him to his highest goal total since he last scored 40 goals nine years ago.
“It’s been a good feeling,” Staal said, “and hopefully for me and us it continues so we can accumulate the wins and get us in the right spot for the playoffs.”
Staal wrapped up the first half of the season with 17 goals, only 11 shy of his total goals from 2016-17. He had a six-game drought Jan. 9-22, but in the final game before the All-Star break, he tallied his 20th.
From that game on, he has pretty much been on a tear, with 21 goals entering Thursday. Only the Oilers’ Connor McDavid (25) and the Jets’ Patrik Laine (22) had more.
Even that dry spell that preceded Staal’s second-half surge was modest compared to last season when he had rough patches of 12 and 13 games.
“As an offensive guy, you always want to have that consistency,” Staal said.
“I think anyone will tell you that it can weigh on you when you’re expected to produce and you have a bunch of games without any points or goals. It can get difficult.
“You want to stay consistent as best you can and if it’s not, you gotta continue to simplify your game and work and compete and do all the other things because you can’t let other stuff slip because you’re not scoring. I take pride in trying to be at my best every game no matter what and do what I can to help us win.”
Pep talk from BU coach
Not only were Jordan Greenway’s family members in attendance Tuesday in Nashville for his NHL debut, including mom Shannon and brother James, but so was Boston University coach David Quinn.
“It was supposed to be a surprise, but I found out a couple hours before the game,” Greenway said.
The two chatted after the Wild’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Predators.
“He was just asking me how I felt,” Greenway said. “He kind of gave me some words of advice, just said, ‘Continue to work. It’s obviously not easy playing here to play your first game against Nashville but keep working. If you keep working, keep trying to get better every day, you’ll get the hang of it.’ It was good. It was a good talk.”
The Wild has been steeped in playofflike intensity for weeks, but now the team gets the chance to mimic an actual series with its home-and-home set against the Stars.
After hosting its Central Division rival Thursday, the Wild will travel to Dallas to face the Stars on Saturday.
“It’s a good little warmup for the postseason,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “Kind of a unique opportunity to play a team like that back-to-back games. We had a little bit of that almost … with Nashville this past weekend. We had one [game] in between, but they’re going to be tough games [against the Stars]. They’re playing for their lives, and they’re going to be scratching and clawing. We need to make sure we match that.”
Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has been sidelined since he partly tore his right hamstring March 13 against the Avalanche, is “feeling good” and “getting better,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s skating next week.”
The Wild recognized Bob Naegele Jr. before Thursday’s game as the recipient of the 2017-18 State of Hockey Legacy Award.
Naegele was the lead investor of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, which helped NHL hockey return to Minnesota with the arrival of the Wild in 2000. He served as Chairman of MSE and was the majority owner of the Wild until current owner Craig Leipold purchased the team in 2008.
This award, presented by the Wild, Minnesota Hockey and Fox Sports North, honors individuals who have made extraordinary and long-term contributions to hockey in Minnesota.