Everyone on the Wild bench held their collective breath on Wednesday night watching center Joel Eriksson Ek struggle to his feet out on the ice. After a taking glancing blow from a St. Louis Blues defender in the neutral zone, the 24-year-old was down.
That’s the last thing the Wild need with the NHL playoffs starting in a couple of weeks. Not only has Eriksson Ek been the best two-way player on the team this season, he has been rediscovering chemistry with linemates Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno as of late.
All of that looked to be slipping away as Eriksson Ek got off the ice and walked slowly down the tunnel. Luckily for the Wild, he returned to the bench a few minutes later, and while he didn’t play another shift, it looks as if he avoided serious injury.
Asked about the sequence after the game, Eriksson Ek responded, “I’m good.” It’s also worth noting that the Wild never make injured players available to reporters.
That’s good news for the Wild because the Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line has been the straw that stirs the drink for the past couple of weeks. Though star rookie Kirill Kaprizov has been superb, he has impressed mostly as a one-man wrecking machine.
Not the case for the Wild’s checking line that has become a scoring line. They feed off each other up and down the ice, and not surprisingly, Greenway (6 goals, 24 assists), Eriksson Ek (16 goals, 10 assists) and Foligno (10 goals, 12 assists) have all taken their game to another level this season.
“It’s been a great season for our line,” Foligno said. “You’ve got Ekker, and he’s been a huge part. You talk about a two-way forward who can handle everything when it comes to physicality and the offensive side, too. It’s been pretty exciting to see how he’s grown into the player he is now. You’ve got Greener, too, who’s taking big strides. It’s fun to be on that line. We just feed off each other.”
The game against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night was a perfect example. Less than 30 seconds into his first shift, Foligno stapled an opposing player to the boards. That set the tone for a big night during which the trio combined for five points. with Greenway tallying a pair of assists, Eriksson Ek scoring a goal, and Foligno recording a goal and an assist.
“They play on their toes,” Foligno said. “Every shift they were going and getting to the net. They didn’t do anything special. They just were who they were, and they got rewarded for it.”
The only issue from that game was that the Wild fell apart down the stretch and suffered a frustrating 4-3 loss. That spoiled an otherwise solid effort from the Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line and left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth postgame.
“I’d rather play a bad game as a line (and win) than play like this (and lose),” Eriksson Ek said. “It’s about winning, and today we couldn’t finish like we have before. It’s something we can learn from.”