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Granlund thriving on wing for Wild

Forward's physical play key entering Game 6 against Stars

by Dan Myers / NHL Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild may have found something in new left wing Mikael Granlund.

Granlund has predominantly played center in his four NHL seasons. But without some of the defensive responsibilities that centers have in Minnesota's system, he has flourished since being moved to the wing before Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Dallas Stars.

Dallas leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Moving to the wing has allowed Granlund to be more aggressive, and the increase in his physical play has been noticeable the past four games.

"I think that's actually a big thing, as a center, a lot of times you need to be ready to go back into your own end and be responsible with that," Granlund said. "But as a winger, you can go more in and maybe that has changed that a little bit as well."

Video: MIN@DAL: Granlund stuffs home rebound after turnover

Wild coach John Torchetti has praised Granlund, lauding his physical play despite his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame.

"Heart of a lion," Torchetti said after Game 5. "We don't worry about points. [He's] probably our best competitor. That's what it's about."

Scoring a bunch of points is about the only thing Granlund hasn't done in this series, although he did that Friday.

Despite leading the Wild with 14 shots on goal through four games, Granlund didn't score a point until his goal in the opening minutes of Game 5. He also had the primary assist on Mikko Koivu's tying goal with 3:09 left in the third period. Koivu scored again at 4:55 of overtime to force Game 6.

Video: Torchetti on Granlund's Role

Even Koivu's winner came as a result of hard work by Granlund along the wall. He didn't score a point on the play, but won a puck battle and got the puck to Nate Prosser at the point. Prosser's point-to-point pass went to Ryan Suter, who shot toward the net, where Koivu deflected it.

"The battle level and the [competitiveness] that he has his great," Koivu said. "It's fun to see when you have a player like him. Not only make plays, but all the ways he blocks shots and is responsible defensively. Makes it easier for center guy to really trust what he's doing."

Granlund said he relishes the opportunity to play on the big stage, having excelled for Finland in the 2011 IIHF World Championship as well as in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I think the biggest thing is, everything matters," Granlund said. "These are the games that really matter and you have a chance to win something great and that makes you really excited about that."

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