ST. LOUIS – The Wild closed out the first month of the season how it spent most of October: on the losing end.
While there were a few notable blowouts and some stunning collapses, there was also the occasional close call.
Such was the case Wednesday, when the Blues eked out a 2-1 decision at Enterprise Center to finalize the Wild’s October at 4-9.
And even though the month was brimming with setbacks of different varieties, the Wild is confident what the group has shown so far isn’t its full potential.
“The start of the year certainly wasn’t the way we wanted to go,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “There were spurts of good play, but I think we’ve shown pretty consistently over the last stretch here what we’re capable of doing and the way we need to play to win.”
Although the month as a whole was disappointing and discouraging, a showing that slotted the team 29th overall, players pointed to its recent play as a sign of progress. Before back-to-back losses on the road in St. Louis and Dallas, the Wild had won three out of four.
Subtract the third-period meltdown in Dallas Tuesday that led to a 6-3 fizzle to the Stars, and the Wild certainly played well enough to earn a better fate on this trip.
“I think the last five or six games we have shown good character and that we're a good team,” winger Mats Zuccarello said.
But November is starting where October left off, with heavy road action.
After hosting the rematch with the Blues Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild will venture west for a four-game trip.
“It’s a tough league,” Dubnyk said. “There’s not a ton of margin. You gotta do it for 60 minutes every night to have a chance, and we know what we’re capable of. We just gotta find a way to do it.”
Wednesday was Dubnyk’s first appearance since that Oct.22 collision in the crease with winger Ryan Donato knocked him on his back and sidelined him with an upper-body injury.
Dubnyk made 24 saves.
“I felt good,” he said. “I was looking forward to it. It’s never fun being out and having to sit and watch. I was a little anxious throughout the day today, just looking forward to getting back playing. It was only a week off, so it wasn’t like it was a big break. So I felt good in there.”
Zuccarello notched his first goal with the Wild, accentuating the chemistry he’s found recently with linemates Eric Staal and Jason Zucker. The unit has 10 points in its last three games.
Assists on Zuccarello’s goal extended point streaks for Staal and Zucker to three games apiece. Zucker’s helper was the 100th of his career, making him the 17th player in franchise history to accomplish the feat.
“Working hard,” Zuccarello said when asked what’s clicked for the three lately. “I feel more and more comfortable with the puck.”
Despite the result, the night was still a memorable one for winger Luke Kunin.
It was his first NHL game in St. Louis after growing up in the nearby suburb of Chesterfield.
Kunin had his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends in attendance.
“There were a lot of people,” he said. “It was pretty special.”