Good GREEF: Wild to reunite line that set standard last season

Two minutes and change.

That's how little Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno have been on the ice together this season, their previously dominating partnership on hiatus mostly because of health.

But a reunion is in the works.

The Wild are expected to reinstate the "GREEF" line on Thursday against NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid and the Oilers when they stop by Xcel Energy Center for a Western Conference clash.

"Seems like a perfect time for a shutdown line," Foligno said. "That's what we'll look at as a challenge, a really good task, obviously the best player in the world. [We'll] have last change. We'll be able to match up well against that team and try to really shut him down."

The Wild previewed the new/old look at practice on Tuesday, with Greenway slotting into the spot previously occupied by newcomer Ryan Reaves after his arrival last week in a trade from the Rangers.

Reaves wasn't on the ice for the session, going home to retrieve his belongings, and Jonas Brodin was also missing because of a lower-body injury that'll likely sideline him vs. Edmonton. Filip Gustavsson, who was scratched last game with an upper-body injury, was back between the pipes, and the team returned goalie Zane McIntyre to the minors.

Injury is what initially split up Greenway, Eriksson Ek and Foligno.

Greenway hurt his shoulder in his season debut, which was delayed after he had offseason surgery on his shoulder. Then once he returned, Foligno was on the mend. By the time Foligno healed, Greenway was out again because of a setback with his shoulder.

All three have suited up for the past three games, but the Wild had Greenway on a separate line from Eriksson Ek and Foligno; that changed with two of the game's most talented scorers in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the on-deck circle.

After gaining traction in the shortened 2021 season as a checking force, the three thrived last season in a matchup role.

"We take a lot of pride in it," Greenway said.

They were scored on only five times in more than 400 minutes of action together, the fewest goals against any line in the NHL that logged as much ice time as they did, according to Money Puck. (Their expected goals-against was much higher, pegged at 13 by Natural Stat Trick.)

"Our best defense is playing in the zone, that board play and really taking pucks to the net," Foligno said. "Ekker's unbelievable in the middle doing that stuff, and Greener's really good at fending guys off."

Yes, a line designed to defend the other team's best players has been effective by not defending at all, instead leveraging their combined 658 pounds to hold onto pucks in the offensive zone and crash the crease.

Eriksson Ek (26 goals) and Foligno (23) are coming off career years, and the Wild tallied 25 goals last season when they were on the ice together. That, too, was better than the expected count of 21 (Natural Stat Trick).

"We don't want to throw pucks away," Foligno said. "We don't really like to turn over pucks. Our forecheck is key. Our goal is to play as much as we can in the offensive zone and be crucial down there. Then when we do get in our D-zone, we like to be quick out and physical and make it not fun to be down there."

Not only are the three reuniting ahead of a tough assignment, they're teaming up with their individual games on the rise.

Greenway, who has appeared in just five games all season, said he has felt great, and fellow winger Foligno had a two-goal effort Wednesday vs. the Jets that ended an 11-game drought. Eriksson Ek has seven points in his past five games, with the center winning 56.6% of faceoffs in that span.

"It's just trying to go to those areas where I'm successful and just trying to be around there to create my chances and defend our net as well," Eriksson Ek said.

Although the Wild have victories in three of their past four, they have yet to get on a run.

Maybe deploying a line that's considered the identity of the team will change that.

"It's what gives our team the best chance of winning, having a line that's got a lot of chemistry," Foligno said. "It's been years in the making, of building this up together. So it's exciting to kind of be back on paper. We're looking forward to just starting where we left off."