The talk after the Wild's Thursday victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets was Minnesota's success on the power play.
The Wild converted on three of its five power-play opportunities, and generated 12 shots on its man-advantage chances.
On each scoring play, the Wild crowded the area around the crease, something that's been stressed during training camp, and something they want to get better at in man-up situations.
"If it's an area where you can go to score goals and get rewarded, guys will be willing to go there," Jason Pominville said. "If it's not you, it's going to be someone else, and it creates traffic, creates rebounds, and creates opportunities for the guys on the ice."
Pominville created a screen in front during the preseason opener against the Buffalo Sabres on a Jared Spurgeon goal. It wasn't on the power play, but Head Coach Mike Yeo cited that play in the postgame on Thursday.
"You look at what we did tonight, and those goals are a direct result of our net-front play. It's a huge key, and it will continue to be," Yeo said.
One of the keys to getting that traffic in front is maintaining puck possession long enough to get a player down near the blue paint. The Wild has also been using a forward stationed in the middle of the penalty kill to help distend the shape of the opposing team, and throw off the cadence of the penalty killers.
"That's a big thing that a lot of teams are doing and we want to get better and, and do more," Pominville said. "If you use the middle guy just for a touch it kind of settles things down, and they can't be as aggressive."
Mikko Koivu was used in that position against the Sabres, and though he didn't get a point on the play, was a key part of the passing sequence that led to a Mikael Granlund power-play goal. Nino Niederreiter scored from that spot against Columbus on the power play, and Charlie Coyle got a secondary assist and opened up space when he went there seconds before Christian Folin's power-play goal.
"Especially on the power play, using that middle guy opens things up," Coyle said. "We saw that one to Nino where he popped up and he was open, and [Tyler Graovac] in front taking away eyes. We did that a number of times tonight, and that was our main thing: getting pucks to net, and getting traffic."
Once the puck gets to the middle, it can either be a good position to shoot from, or a good chance to reload with a collapsing defense and re-establish the point, giving defensemen a chance to shoot.
"You kind of try to look where the goalie has head and shoot on the opposite side," Folin said. "But a lot of times you try to just get the puck there, and the guys just do a hell of a job being in front there, or using there stick to tip it in. You get it down there, and they'll do the rest."
Becoming Wild Returns On Friday
Make sure to tune in to Fox Sports North after the conclusion of Friday's Twins-Tigers game to catch the season five premiere of Becoming Wild Presented by Toyota. Friday's episode will feature defenseman Ryan Suter. More information about the show can be found here.