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A spectator last season, Boldy now a key figure in Wild lineup

Matt Boldy has been with the Wild in the playoffs before, even skating in warmups during the first round against the Golden Knights last year.

But now he’s gone one step further and cracked the lineup.

“I’m obviously really excited,” Boldy said.

After previously being on standby in case the Wild needed him to swoop in as an injury replacement during that series vs. Vegas, the winger achieved a first on Monday night by facing off against the Blues in Game 1 at Xcel Energy Center and Boldy reached this milestone as one of the NHL’s most polished rookies after an impressive introduction with the Wild.

“He’s obviously made great strides and progress, not only physically but mentally,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “He’s a very composed, very calm, very mature person.”

While he’s become a regular for the Wild, filling out an effective line with kevin fiala and Frederick GaudreauBoldy wasn’t with the Wild at the start of the season.

He actually wasn’t playing anywhere at that time, recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered in a preseason game.

Once the ankle healed, Boldy suited up for Iowa in the American Hockey League and was there for 10 games from November to January before getting beckoned to the NHL.

“Playing in Iowa was key,” Evason said. “We didn’t want to rush him here. He clearly has the skill set that could’ve been here since Day 1, but he needed an opportunity to go and play against men and battle and make that next step to the National Hockey League .”

Since he joined the Wild, Boldy hasn’t looked out of place.

Not only did the Massachusetts native make an immediate impact in his debut, scoring the game-winning goal in front of his family on Jan. 6 at Boston, but he’s been a steady contributor on offense. The 21-year-old owns the longest point streak this season by an NHL rookie — a 10-game run that also set a Wild rookie record.

Overall, Boldy racked up 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points and his 0.83 points-per-game clip is tops among rookies who played at least as many games as him (47).

Had Boldy logged more action, he might have become the favorite for the Calder Trophy as the top rookie.

But unlike some of the league’s other up-and-comers, Boldy is still playing.

That means he has a chance to win a different kind of hardware.

“Just happy with how the year’s gone so far,” Boldy said, “and want to keep it going.”

First timers

Boldy wasn’t the only Wild player making his playoff debut on Monday night.

The team had four newbies in the lineup, with forwards Nic Deslauriers and Brandon Duhame and defenseman Jake Middleton the others.

“It was tough to get any sleep [Sunday] night just thinking of all the scenarios that could go down,” said Middleton, who like Deslauriers was traded to the Wild in the second half of the season. “But it’s something you dream about for a while to get this opportunity. So, I’m excited.”

full strength

Despite closing out the regular season with some injuries, the Wild went into Game 1 with everyone available.

winger Marcus Foligno played after he was kneed last Friday by the Avalanche’s Kurtis MacDermidand winger Mats Zuccarello returned after suffering a lower-body injury April 22 and missing the next week of action. The team scratched forwards Nick Bjugstad and Connor Dewar along with defensemen jordie benn and alex goligosky.

In net, the Wild tabbed Marc-André Fleury after acquiring the three-time Stanley Cup champion from the Blackhawks before the NHL trade deadline on March 21.

Fleury’s 16 consecutive postseason appearances are the most for a goalie in NHL history. This was his first game against the Blues with the Wild; Cam Talbot faced St. Louis in all three of the regular-season matchups.

“It’s not a tough decision, right?” Evason said of the team’s goaltending. “It’s an easy decision because we feel both are more than capable of starting for us here. We’re excited about the opportunity to have both guys available if we need it, and we probably will.”

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