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Wild want ‘dirty goals’ near the crease

ST. PAUL — Unfortunately for the Wild, the reincarnation of Marian Gaborik isn’t walking through that door.

Gaboriz was the most successful sniper in the franchise history, and the Wild have been searching for a pure goal scorer ever since he left town a decade ago.

Without him, or anyone like him, the Wild have slogged through games ever since, mucking it up in the neutral zone, while working so hard to manufacture goals.

It looks like more of the same this season for the Wild, who are averaging a just two goals per game with little help from the players up front.

In fact, the forwards on the roster have yet to score a goal using their actual stick; Jason Zucker has a goal that glanced off his arm, and Zach Parise has a goal that deflected in off his butt.

Those are the kinds of goals coach Bruce Boudreau claims he wants, though that might be because he knows his personnel at this point.

“We are starting to learn about creating,” Boudreau said. “How are we getting our goals? We’re going to the front of the net or hitting us in the (butt) and it’s going in and things like that. We aren’t going to be the pretty tic-tac-toe kind of team. We have to manufacture goals.”

That message seems to have resonated with most players realizing what the Wild need to do to score goals.

“It’s just too easy for the goaltender right now,” Kevin Fiala said. “Maybe just one more guy in front or something and get dirty goals. It’s going to come.”

“It’s just getting away from the gray areas where we’re trying to make an extra pass,” Marcus Foligno added. “Just trying to force plays to make it look pretty is something that we just don’t have a lot of right now.”

It raises the question: Is that sustainable over the course of an 82-game season?

In a league dominated by skilled players who can take over a game at any moment, scoring highlight-reel goals from anywhere in the offensive zone, the Wild have more or less seemed allergic to the back of the net.

Just look back at Zucker getting robbed by Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne in last week’s season opener, or Ryan Donato getting robbed by Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer a couple of days later.

There’s no way around it. Those breakaways have to be goals more often than not if the Wild are going to have a chance at being competitive this season.

“We have to have that killer instinct,” said defenseman Matt Dumba, the most dynamic player on the team. “We had some great opportunities. We just have to put them away.”

It’s still unclear who’s going to step up for the Wild at this point.

Maybe Parise will rediscover his scoring touch at some point. Maybe Zucker will take another step as a pure goal scorer. Maybe Fiala will become the gamebreaker former general manager Paul Fenton always thought he could be.

No matter what, the Wild need more pucks in the net, or this could be a long season.

“We know two goals (per game) is not enough,” Fiala said. “We just have to get more goals.”

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