Wild Check-In: Eriksson Ek & Zuccarello Thrive, Pitlick & Sturm Struggle

In this installment of the Wild Check-In, we look at the Minnesota Wild’s winning streak that abruptly ended. They went 2-2 on their road trip, beating both the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks, before falling in back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights. They had strong showings from several players in the wins, while their losses showed a lack of discipline and few shots on net. Goaltending was one of the bright spots again this week. Despite the losses, both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen played well.

Wild’s Eriksson Ek, Zuccarello, & Foligno Tally Points

The Wild’s power forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala have points in the last four games, but Joel Eriksson Ek, who’s had an up and down season, scored five points in four games, including two goals last week. Apart from Eriksson Ek, Mats Zuccarello and Marcus Foligno also deserve recognition.

Joel Eriksson-Ek Minnesota Wild
Joel Eriksson-Ek, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Zuccarello isn’t much of a surprise. After coming back from injury, he’s been on a scoring rampage, with six points in six games. Last week, he had four points in four games (one goal and three assists), and he seems to have found the scoring touch we saw glimpses of at the beginning of the season. That leaves Marcus Foligno, who was recognized for his scoring touch early in the season, but lately, he’s been going about his business unnoticed. He’s still tallying points with 19 in 28 games, including three goals in the last four.

Wild Stragglers

Another player who burst onto the scene, Rem Pitlick, has been off the scoresheet lately. He hasn’t tallied a point since Dec. 2 and only played one game last week after head coach Dean Evason made him a healthy scratch. He can score pretty goals, but he’s struggled with one shot on net last week. He also didn’t record any hits or blocked shots, and he had one giveaway.

Related: Wild’s Penalty Struggles Continue in Loss to Golden Knights

Nico Sturm was also a straggler. He has nine points in 28 games and none in the last four. He’s been pointless since Nov. 28, two games longer than Pitlick’s scoring drought. Like Pitlick, he only recorded one shot on net last week, but he’s played four games instead of one. He had two giveaways, but he also had two blocked shots and contributed defensively.

Wild Come Home

After a rough ending to their latest road trip, the Wild head home for three games. They’ll face the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, followed by the Buffalo Sabres (Thursday) and Florida Panthers on Saturday. The Wild have yet to play the Hurricanes and Sabres this season and were dealt a blow in a failed comeback the last time they faced the Panthers. Hopefully, playing for the home crowd will spark another winning streak as Kaprizov gets back on a scoring tear. He’s gone two games without a point, but the quicker he’s back to tallying points, the better.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There are two minor things the Wild need to keep an eye on and tidy up heading into the week. First, their knack for taking reckless penalties. They’ve got to be more disciplined to help their penalty kill. The second is to increase their shots on net, especially on the power play. They had many chances against the Golden Knights but needed to take more shots for a chance to win.

Last week started great and ended in disappointment, but it’s only a minor bump in the road. The Wild will be at home, where they’ve been very successful with a 10-2 record. They’ll have to step it up to get back on the winning track and keep that impressive home record going.

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