ST. PAUL -- No matter how bad the struggles got for Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal a couple of weeks ago, he remained adamant that he was going to break out of his slump eventually.
Still, it was clearly getting to Staal, and watching him react after scoring his first goal of the season on Oct. 22, spreading his arms wide and letting out a massive roar, the relief on his face was apparent.
That snapped an eight-game goalless drought for the 16-year NHL veteran — the longest of his career to open a season — and gave the 6-foot-4, 207-pound forward a shot of confidence that has carried over a couple of weeks later.
“That’s pretty common for a lot of offensive guys,” said Staal, 35, who now leads the Wild with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists). “I’ve seen it over my time where good play comes with confidence. It’s the same with a lot of players.”
After looking as if he was skating in quicksand a couple of weeks ago, Staal has regained his lengthy stride as of late.
“He looks like his legs are underneath him,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, noting how Staal suffered a minor lower-body injury early on that hindered his performance. “He’s looking like Eric Staal again.”
That’s exactly what the Wild (4-9-1) need as they embark on a week-long road trip starting Tuesday in Anaheim. After that, the Wild play in San Jose on Thursday, at Arizona on Saturday and in Los Angeles on Nov. 12.
As Staal has shown in the past, he has the potential to carry a team when things are going his way. Like a couple of season ago, in 2017-18, when he scored 42 goals seemingly out of nowhere.
Staal, for one, knows that even that season was filled with ups and downs that he had to skillfully navigate.
“There are certain times where it can be easy to get frustrated and down,” he said. “You’ve got to keep reminding yourself to change your mindset and continue to put in the effort and the compete, and eventually it’ll turn. That’s just the way it works with this game.”
Staal has proven that time and time again. He has been written off umpteen times since arriving in the Twin Cities yet continues to find a way to prove the doubters wrong.
“Just try to gain some confidence form working hard and competing and getting a bounce here or there,” he said. “It’s amazing what that can do for a player.”
If anything, Staal has proven just that the past couple of weeks.
“You want to hang on to that feeling, for sure,” he said. “No question. For me personally, developing some chemistry with (linemates) Jason (Zucker) and Mats (Zuccarello) has helped. You can feel the confidence out of both of them with certain plays that we’re making, and hopefully that just keeps growing and we gain confidence as we go.”