Wild pride themselves on their physical play, and Ryan Reaves adds to that
Nineteen games into the season, the Wild picked up Reaves in a with the New York Rangers. Minnesota is 7-3-0 since he joined the team.
ST. PAUL -- Ryan Reaves agreed that Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Red Wings was probably the first time he’s truly set the tone as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
Never mind that Reaves didn’t have any points in the game. He delivered a big hit to Detroit defenseman Filip Hronek in the early stages of the game. That allowed him to live rent free in the heads of Red Wings for the full 60 minutes.
That physical play is something Reaves prides himself on, which makes him a perfect fit with the Wild, who also pride themselves on being hard to play against night in and night out.
“Most definitely,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. “I think that’s the structure of our team, and that’s how we want to play every night. Just be physically imposing when they’re going back for pucks or coming up the ice like that. You’ve got to be aware of where we are on the ice.”
While playing for the Blues, Penguins, Golden Knights and Rangers in the past, Reaves knew he was in for a tough night when he stepped onto the ice against the Wild.
“I always thought this team played gritty,” he said. “Especially the (Joel Eriksson Ek) line. We always had good battles. Especially in the playoffs.”
Nineteen games into the season, the Wild (16-11-2) picked up Reaves in a Nov. 23 trade with the New York Rangers. Minnesota is 7-3-0 since he joined the team.
The acquisition of Reaves provides the Wild with some extra size up front; the 35-year-old veteran winger is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. That makes sure the trio of Eriksson Ek centering Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno doesn’t always have to do the heavy lifting.
“They do their thing and then I help out our line,” said Reaves, who found a spot in the lineup alongside Connor Dewar and opposite Mason Shaw. “Just maybe creating a little more space and definitely bringing a little more physicality and a little more grit.”
To this day, Dumba has vivid memories of going up against Reaves in the playoff series between the Wild and the Blues. As a young defenseman, Dumba quickly learned the importance of getting pucks out of the defensive zone as soon as possible. Or else.
“That fourth line was pretty crazy,” Dumba said of Reaves’ line in St. Louis. “You didn’t want to wait around and see what was coming.”
The worst part? If Reaves crunched someone along the boards, he smiled as he went back to the bench.
“I was mad on the other side when he did it,” Dumba said. “He’s hard to chirp, too, because he’s loud. He doesn’t let guys get many sentences in. He’s great for our team.”
Indeed. Now, no matter who the Wild play against on any given night, they are going to have the biggest and baddest dude on the ice.
“I hope that teams find it difficult to play against us,” coach Dean Evason said. “That is our identity and that is what we want to be, and we’ve gotten to that point. Now the challenge again is to continually do that on a nightly basis just over and over again. If we do that, we give ourselves a real good opportunity.”
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