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Ryan Hartman gives Wild a boost as he slowly rounds back into form

He has been playing on a line with Freddy Gaudreau and Matt Boldy, and scored a pair of goals on Dec. 31 as the Wild defeated the Blues 5-2.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets
Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman screens a shot on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in the third period Dec. 27, 2002, in Winnipeg.
James Carey Lauder / USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL -- Even before he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to miss a couple of months, Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman wasn’t happy with the way things were going on the ice.

After scoring a career-high 34 goals last season, Hartman entered this season with high expectations for himself. Unfortunately, he struggled to produce for the Wild in the early stages, then injured himself during an Oct. 30 game against the Blackhawks.

The most frustrating part for Hartman was he thought his game was trending in the right direction before suffering the shoulder injury.

“I thought I started making steps right before I got hurt,” Hartman said following Tuesday’s practice at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul. “Then coming back afterward, it takes a game or so.”

Now that he’s been back in the lineup for a couple of weeks, Hartman is slowly rounding back into form. He has been playing on a line alongside Freddy Gaudreau and opposite Matt Boldy, and he scored a pair of goals on New Year’s Eve as the Wild defeated the Blues 5-2 in St. Louis.

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“He’s a pretty easy guy to play with,” Boldy said. “He’s had success all over our lineup. He plays hard. He wants the puck. He goes and hunts it and gets it back. He’s so smart and sees the ice really well. Then when he gets his chance, he puts it in the back of the net.”

The next step for Hartman is scoring goals with more regularity.

Though the Wild have Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello leading the charge offensively, the re-emergence of Hartman would provide a nice boost. Not that Hartman is going to be cheating the game now that he’s found the back of the net a couple of times.

“I think when my game is going and things are going well, it’s when I’m defending well and have the puck more,” Hartman said. “I feel like the scoring happens when I’m not thinking about scoring and I’m playing the game the right way. Just playing hard and playing in the dirty areas.”

That’s exactly what coach Dean Evason preaches on a nightly basis, so he appreciates that Hartman brings that grit to his game.

“We know what we’re going to get every night,” Evason said. “He’s going to give that same effort. He’s that type of guy. Just an old-school player who plays hard every night and brings a lot to our lineup wherever he plays.”

That explains why Hartman waited until he was at full strength to return to the lineup. As far as he was concerned, there was no sense in him playing at 50 percent if he couldn’t play the way he needed to play to be effective.

“I’ve played through things before where I’ve had to take away from certain things in my game,” Hartman said. “There was really nothing I could do but wait until I felt 100% and there was no limitation for me.”

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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