Wild winger Nino Niederreiter hasn’t slammed his stick on the bench when he returns after a shift or made a similar show of emotion.
But coach Bruce Boudreau can sense the frustration simmering inside Niederreiter after a scoreless start through five games, especially after Niederreiter failed to capitalize on a breakaway in the 4-2 loss to the Predators on Monday in Nashville — a tally that would have tied the score at 3 in the third period.
“You can tell he’s getting mad at things that aren’t going well for him,” Boudreau said. “I just told him, let the game come to him. He’s chasing the game and when you chase the game, you’re always frustrated. So do what he’s been doing for his whole life and when he gets the opportunity to put it in, put it in.”
Niederreiter got behind the Predators defense with less than three minutes to go in the third and after skating in alone on goalie Pekka Rinne, Niederreiter dumped the puck into Rinne’s pads.
“Obviously, I wish I could have put that in and at least force it into overtime,” Niederreiter said. “Definitely very frustrating for sure.”
Although he didn’t score in the first five games, Niederreiter is getting chances. Only five players had more than his 11 shots, and he has a spot on the No.1 power-play unit.
“I just have to find a way to get a shot on net and find a way to get the bounces,” he said.
What’s helped Niederreiter snap out of a scoring funk in the past is crashing the crease, and that’s exactly what Boudreau is prescribing for Niederreiter’s latest slump.
“If he goes to the net and he might get banged around a bit,” Boudreau said, “but those are the ones that go [in] off your butt and all of a sudden, things start going well for him.”
Captain Mikko Koivu missed Tuesday’s game to be with his wife, Helena, who was in labor.
With Koivu out, the Wild dressed seven defensemen. Nate Prosser made his first appearance of the season.
Before Koivu’s absence, the Zach Parise-Koivu-Mikael Granlund line had been the Wild’s most productive, combining for five points against the Predators.
Factor in the two games before that, and the three accumulated two goals and 10 assists.
“I think there’s still [room] to make some better decisions with the puck,” Parise said. “I think with Granlund and Mikko, I think we’re talking a lot on the bench and we’re trying to develop that chemistry that we know where our automatic outs are when we’re under pressure. I think it’s getting better.
“There [were] some good times for us [Monday], but I think there were also some times where I had the puck and I know I had Granlund behind the net and didn’t make the play to him. I think the more we play together, the more familiar we’ll get with those plays.”
Learning the ropes
Jordan Greenway’s ice time tapered off as the action against the Predators progressed, with Greenway getting bumped from the Eric Staal-Jason Zucker line late in the second period.
“He’s a young guy, and sometimes young guys get into situations they’re taken aback,” Boudreau said. “I thought there were a couple plays he got [the puck], and he sort of was panicky with it or held on to it instead of making the play and doing the things he was capable of. But he’s going to be a really good player.”
• Forward Luke Kunin, who was assigned to the American Hockey League on Oct. 7 as he continues to work his way back from a torn ACL in his left knee, made his first appearance with Iowa on Friday, putting two shots on goal.
“He’s not coming back for a while,” Boudreau said.