Wild’s Reaves adds a scoring touch to his usual grittiness
NEWARK, N.J. — Arms pumping and head pointed in the direction of the puck, the Wild's Ryan Reaves skated out of the Wild's zone and didn't stop until he landed in front of the Capitals net.
What happened next is becoming routine: Reaves scored (on a tip) to help the Wild to a 5-3 victory on Sunday afternoon.
"I think I've abandoned the stickhandling and shooting," the winger said. "Just parked myself in front and let the linemates with a little more skill do their work."
After going goalless in his first 40 games with the Wild since he arrived in a trade from the Rangers last November, Reaves lately has been one of the team's most consistent producers.
Reaves' tally on Sunday was his third in four games, with all but one a deflection, and he also picked up two assists in that stretch to highlight how he's providing the Wild with much more than physicality.
"He's a leader in the room and on the bench," coach Dean Evason said. "He's calm. He goes about his business. Sure, he looks after his teammates. There's no question about that. He's probably the best in the league at doing that.
"But he has an ability to play in the National Hockey League. You don't play as long as he's played [13 seasons] to this point just by being a tough guy. You have to play, especially in today's game."
Still, Reaves does set a tone with his grittiness and that was also on display against Washington.
Early in the third period, Matt Dumba knocked Evgeny Kuznetsov out of the game with a check and although he wasn't penalized for the hit, Dumba was confronted by T.J. Oshie and the two fought. (Oshie was dinged with an instigator penalty along with a 10-minute misconduct on top of the five-minute fighting major.)
The vibe was tense in the aftermath, and Reaves actually had a chat with the Capitals' Tom Wilson to make sure "he was on his best behavior." Wilson ended up getting tossed in the waning seconds after Nicklas Backstrom scuffled with Dumba, but the action didn't spiral out of control.
"Having a guy like [Reaves] calms some guys down," Marcus Foligno said.
During their recent summit in Florida, NHL general managers actually discussed fighting after a clean hit and the impact of the instigator penalty.
On Sunday, Dumba said he understood the situation that developed with Washington.
"Hit like that goes the other way, I'm expecting our guys to step in and have each other's back," Dumba explained. "So, I think that's part of the game and something that I don't think fighting can ever leave the game. It's a way to police it and if guys think they need to take it in their own hands, by all means."
After suffering a lower-body injury on March 12 at Arizona and missing the next three games, Foligno returned against the Devils.
The winger was hurt after falling on a skate, what he described as a "freak incident." Foligno thought he got cut but ended up with a contusion that "just had to settle down."
That was the second issue to sideline him this month; overall, Foligno was out eight of the past 17 games before suiting up vs. New Jersey after also missing nine games earlier in the season because of injury or illness. Before this latest absence, he had two goals and a pair of assists in five games.
"Hopefully now … I can roll and be healthy going into the playoffs," said Foligno, who played on the Wild's top line alongside Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello. "That's the main thing. I'm really happy with the way I've been playing and the way the team has been playing."
Etc.Captain Jared Spurgeon (illness) did not play Tuesday.Jon Merrill subbed in on defense after he was scratched the previous game.