Wild, Blue Jackets aim to be better than even

The Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets sport identical records as they head into a Saturday meeting at Saint Paul, Minn.

While neither team is ecstatic about its 2-2-0 mark, neither team is overly disappointed.

“We’ve just been even, which is our record, 2-2,” Wild coach Dean Evason said after his team’s Friday practice. “We need to take another step forward.”

The record is even, but the Wild’s games have been all over the map.

After opening with an impressive 2-0 home victory over the Florida Panthers, Minnesota was dumped 7-4 by the host Toronto Maple Leafs. The Wild beat the Canadiens 5-2 in Montreal but then were handed a 7-3 defeat by the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, a game in which Minnesota surrendered four goals in the first period, including a pair in the final minute of the frame.

Evason must figure out how his team can be better at both ends of the rink while without a couple of key defensemen, Jared Spurgeon and Alex Goligoski, and impact forward Matthew Boldy, who are all on the sidelines due to injury.

The Minnesota coaching staff was trying some new line combinations in the hopes of finding some solutions.

“We need to generate a little bit more,” Evason said before correcting himself. “Well, we generate; we need to score more. We need to get a little more production from up and down the lineup. We expect all four of our lines to generate and score goals.”

The Blue Jackets have been no more consistent despite playing each of their first four games at home. They opened the season with a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, claimed a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers, were dumped 4-0 by the Detroit Red Wings but then earned a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday.

The latest win was a solid bounce-back from the disappointing loss to the Red Wings.

“I want (my team) to feel good,” Columbus coach Pascal Vincent said. “I know those guys, right? I know they mean well. I know they want to do well, and sometimes you push your team, but you push your team in a way you know they will respond because you know those players. They weren’t happy with themselves the last game… and tonight they responded well.”

The Blue Jackets’ difference-makers were the fourth liners, who connected for the first two goals in the win. Sean Kuraly’s first of the season opened the scoring, and Justin Danforth’s second of the season held up as the game-winning goal as Columbus staked a 2-0 lead.

“For me, it’s not always pretty,” Kuraly told the Columbus Dispatch. “That one works out as a nice one, but just get them at the net. That’s all I’m thinking.”

There was no update regarding star Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine, who was on the receiving end of a high check from Calgary defenseman Rasmus Andersson in the final seconds. Laine was on the ice for several moments before being able to get to his feet and leave the ice.

Andersson was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

“I see a hit to the head and (Andersson) lifting his feet,” Vincent said. “I saw the replay. That’s illegal in my book, so we’ll let the NHL deal with it.”