NASHVILLE – Wild coach Bruce Boudreau promised he’d keep the team’s forward lines intact for at least the first 10 minutes of the season opener.
Although all four units survived the first game, the team could roll out a new look for Game No.2 Saturday in Colorado against the Avalanche after a 5-2 setback Thursday to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
And the Wild’s top line may be at the heart of the shuffle.
“On the road I think we might have to juggle things up, for sure,” Boudreau said. “We’ll see. We’ll review the tape a little more closely. What you think right now sometimes and what you see out there might not be what it is. If I was going to say it right now, I’d have to say that we’re going [against] another really fast-skating team. We might have to change a couple things around.”
Center Eric Staal’s grouping with wingers Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello finished a combined minus-9, the worst showing in the game.
The players were caught on the ice for the Predators’ first goal that opened the scoring and Nashville’s second goal only 27 seconds into the third that siphoned the momentum the Wild built by scoring twice late in the second to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission. They were also tagged for the tally that made it 4-2.
“Our line lets in three goals. We can’t let that happen,” Zuccarello said. “We’ve got to tighten up defensively. We’ve got to be better.”
How the Wild adjusts will be interesting, especially because no line seemed to have a steady rhythm – not when the team was bogged down by turnovers in the neutral zone, giveaways that prevented it from swooping into the offensive zone with speed and getting pressure at the net.
Actually, both of the Wild’s goals were instigated by the defense.
Brad Hunt’s point shot caught a piece of winger Jason Zucker’s jersey on the power play, and Matt Dumba’s blistering shot counted as the other.
“We can’t rely on the defensemen to score goals for us,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got to create more. We’ve got players that can create more. We’ve just got to go do it.”
Dumba’s goal was his first since returning from a torn pectoral muscle, an injury last December that sidelined him for the final 50 games of the season.
“It was nice,” he said. “I haven't done that in a while. But not really thinking about that. This third period kind of puts a damper on everything. It is what it is. We will go to Colorado and get it back.”
Another silver lining for the Wild was the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk, who rattled off 17 straight saves before the Predators finally converted early in the second.
His best of the night – and arguably an early candidate for save of the year – was his windmill grab on a shot from former teammate Mikael Granlund.
“That's how goalies played when I was growing up,” Dubnyk said. “I've got a little bit of that deep down there. You've got to break it out once in a while.”
While Dubnyk was holding off the Predators, the Wild’s offense looked particularly timid – managing just six shots through the first period and going lengthy stretches without attempts reaching the net.
And yet the team was still only 20 minutes away from a victory, a missed opportunity that’ll accompany the group to Denver.
“Obviously, we want to be going out there and creating and whatnot,” Dubnyk said. “But I think it was just going to be [the] situation. It's their home opener, and this is always a tough building to play in anyway. Sometimes the way the game goes, you're just going to have to work it out and battle and as a group, we were doing that very, very well and that's just the way it goes sometimes on the road.”