Exasperated by another quiet performance from Mikael Granlund, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau summoned a "Seinfeld" reference Thursday night. Though he constantly reminds Granlund to shoot more, the message is not getting through — and Boudreau isn't sure how else to say it.
"I can't go out there and hang on his back and follow him up like a close-talker and say, 'Hey! Shoot the puck!'" Boudreau groused, after a 4-1 loss to Edmonton. "He's a smart enough player. The last two years, he was one of, I thought, the top 10 players in the league. And now he's got two goals in  games."
A phrase from a '90s TV show might not resonate with a 26-year-old Finn, and getting nose to nose with Granlund — like the close-talker in "Seinfeld" — isn't likely to work, anyway. So Boudreau chose a different route to get the forward's attention. In Friday's practice, he moved Granlund from wing to center, hoping a position change might spark his dormant scoring touch.
Boudreau tried out some other new looks, too, as the floundering Wild prepared for Saturday's game at New Jersey and Sunday's at the New York Islanders. Center Victor Rask was dropped to the fourth line, with Eric Fehr, usually the fourth-line center, at right wing. Charlie Coyle moved from center to right wing, where he has played well this season, on a line with Zach Parise and Granlund.
The other practice trios had Eric Staal centering Jordan Greenway and Jason Zucker, and Joel Eriksson Ek between Marcus Foligno and Luke Kunin. With the Wild mired in an 0-2-2 slump since returning from an eight-day break, and center Mikko Koivu out for the rest of the season following knee surgery Friday, Boudreau plans to keep shuffling his personnel until he finds groupings that click — and igniting Granlund is his top priority.
"To me, the No. 1 thing we have to do is get Granlund playing the way he's capable of playing," Boudreau said. "He's sort of the straw that stirs the stick up front. When he's going, everybody else is going.
"We've got to find a way. And if we have to move him around to find the right combination, we just hope it's not too late."
By shifting Granlund to center, where he played exclusively until turning pro, Boudreau hopes to free him up from wall battles and give him more space to skate and move the puck. With 12 goals in 54 games, Granlund is on pace for his lowest goal total since the 2015-16 season. He scored 21 last season and 26 in 2016-17.
Though he has five assists in his past five games, Granlund hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 7, a 13-game dry spell. It's a sharp reversal since the first six weeks of the season, when Granlund potted 10 goals in the Wild's first 17 games. He is putting 2.3 shots on goal per game, fewer than last season, and he is connecting on 9.7 percent, his poorest rate in three seasons.
As Boudreau noted, when Granlund isn't producing, the Wild offense suffers as a whole. During those first 17 games — when Granlund was hot and injured defenseman Matt Dumba was lending a scoring boost from the blue line — the Wild was ranked 12th in the NHL with 54 goals. Since Dec. 16, with Dumba on injured reserve and Granlund slumping, the Wild has scored 49 goals — third-fewest in the league.
Granlund said the move to center is "not a big deal," since he has plenty of experience and enjoys the position.
"Having a chance to play with two really good players should be fun," Granlund said. "[Playing center] maybe gets you skating a little bit more. You can kind of move around and make plays, try to get some free ice, try to find those two other guys on the wing.
"I haven't been scoring a lot lately. But at the beginning of the season, it felt like every single puck was going in. Hopefully, it's going to turn around at some point."
wild at new jersey Noon Saturday (FSN)