The recent four-game road trip might have been a mixed bag for the Wild after the team earned a split, but the 10-day trek was certainly a boost for winger Kevin Fiala.
After scoring his first goal of the season in the Wild’s last home game, Fiala brought that momentum with him to California and Arizona, potting two more and chipping in a pair of assists. He scored again Thursday at home for his most productive stretch since joining the Wild.
“Right now, my confidence is pretty high,” Fiala said. “Gotta keep it going.”
Since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out for three games in October, Fiala — who had just one assist at that point — focused on getting back to the basics.
“Just work hard and go to the net and maybe get a dirty goal or something,” Fiala said, “and then it comes again.”
That’s exactly what happened; a harmless-looking throw from along the boards flew in Nov. 2 at home against the Blues. During Fiala’s next outing, Nov. 5 in Anaheim, he started the team’s comeback with a one-timer late in the second.
He also played a role in the rally last Saturday against the Coyotes by cleaning up a rebound, the Wild’s second goal en route to an eventual 4-3 win.
“There’s not a lot of pretty goals in this league,” said Fiala, who was a late arrival to training camp after signing a two-year, $6 million contract the day before players had to report. “The faster you understand it, the better. I was one of the players, I still sometimes don’t want to go to the dirty areas and stuff. But that’s what I told myself. After the injury, I gotta do [that] because the game’s changed. Everybody’s getting better, faster.”
Fiala acknowledged he has felt pressure to perform since arriving via trade from the Predators at last season’s trade deadline, but recently he has found a rhythm, one that’s proven that not every finish has to be highlight-reel material.
“A goal’s a goal,” he said.
Center Nico Sturm was among the final cuts at Wild training camp, and since reporting to the American Hockey League, the 24-year-old has had a solid start to his first full-length pro season.
Through 14 games, Sturm has four goals and two assists for Iowa, which is second in the Central Division at 8-3-3. Two of Sturm’s goals came in back-to-back games last Saturday and Sunday.
“He’s doing great,” General Manager Bill Guerin said. “He had his best weekend [last] weekend. He’s progressing very well. We don’t want him up here [in the NHL] playing six, seven, eight minutes. We want him down there playing a ton. His attitude is fantastic, and they’re well-coached down there [in Iowa]. That’s a team that they play really hard. He’s really fast.”
Defenseman Brennan Menell also earned praise from Guerin. The Woodbury native has 11 points.
“Menell is having a really good year,” Guerin said. “There are some options.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said winger Marcus Foligno, who’s considered week to week with a lower-body injury suffered Nov. 7 in San Jose, was likely to visit with team doctors Thursday evening.
“We’ll probably get a read on what’s going on with him,” Boudreau said.
Greg Pateryn skated with the Wild on Thursday morning and is expected to practice Friday, but the defenseman has not been cleared to play. Pateryn has been sidelined the entire season after undergoing core muscle surgery.