ST. PAUL -- Desperate to create more offense, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has moved one of his most consistent forwards to the third line for Friday’s 6 p.m. puck drop at Washington.
Jason Zucker, who leads the Wild with 46 shots on goal in the past 15 games, will play left wing with center Victor Rask and wing Pontus Aberg, who have two goals and three assists between them since joining the Wild before the NHL trade deadline.
The Wild started the day out of the Western Conference playoff race, a point behind Arizona for the eighth and final spot — although the Coyotes were set to play at Florida Thursday night, March 21.
Maybe Zucker, who has seven goals and 10 points since Feb. 19, will rub off on his new teammates.
“Well, we’re hoping,” Boudreau said after a long, spirited practice Thursday at TRIA Rink.
Minnesota seems to have solved its power-play problems with five goals in their past four games, after scoring none in the previous 18 games, but failed to bury an even-strength chance in their past two games, close losses to the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s funny how the power play goes 0 for 18 and then they start to score, and then five-on-five dries up,” Boudreau said. “I don’t understand it, but maybe someday I’ll understand it.”
Minnesota threw 37 shots at Colorado but missed some prime chances, including an empty net in front of Zucker, who had to go to his backhand and swept the puck wide to the near side. Zucker has 21 goals, second on the team to Zach Parise’s 26, and 39 points in 73 games.
“People say, ‘Oh, you’re not scoring, you’ve got to shoot more.’ Yes, I agree, but you’ve got to shoot smart, too,” Zucker said. “Because I can have 15 shots from the blue line and people might say, ‘Wow, he had 15 shots.’ But they had zero chance of going in, so they’ve got to be smart, too.
“I’m a huge advocate of shooting more, but also shooting smart.”
Joel Eriksson Ek, out with a lower-body injury since an awkward fall in a board battle March 11 against the San Jose Sharks, will miss his fifth straight game Friday.
A second-year center, Eriksson Ek had been playing well since returning from a trip to Iowa at the end of January, scoring four goals among six points in 17 games.
“Not practicing today,” Boudreau said Thursday. “I have no timetable. We’re going on the road and he hasn’t been on the ice.”
Luke Kunin was centering Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala on the second line Thursday.
The Wild recalled forward Matt Read from Iowa under emergency conditions. Read, 32, has a goal in seven games with Minnesota this season, and 34 points (15-19—34) in 55 games in Des Moines.