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Wild's Tyler Ennis on recent success: 'This is the type of player I am'

Minnesota Wild left wing Tyler Ennis (63) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (5) battle for the puck during the third period at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 17, 2017. Dennis Wierzbicki / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — Perhaps it's fitting that as Tyler Ennis seems to have rediscovered his game, the Wild winger's former team is in town to see firsthand what it traded away last offseason.

Acquired with Marcus Foligno from the Buffalo Sabres on June 30, Ennis was viewed as a throw-in to make the salaries match, He had played only 74 games over the previous two seasons, and it was easy to forget Ennis was was three-time 20-goal scorer before injuries threatened to derail a once-promising career.

But Ennis, 28, has started to show flashes of the player he once was and, at least for now.

"I'm feeling really good," Ennis said. "I think my confidence is growing as I'm getting more opportunity. This is the type of player I am. And I can even be better."

Coach Bruce Boudreau, seeing more out of Ennis over the past two weeks, has rewarded him with playing time on the top line alongside forward Erik Staal.

In the past four games, Ennis has averaged 13 minutes, 50 seconds and has three points, all assists, in those four games. He's been so good, he seems to have locked himself into a top-six role despite the fact the Wild are finally at full strength with the return Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter.

"I'm finding some really good chemistry now with Staalsy," Ennis said. "I've just got to keep growing and building and getting better."

Ennis has been fighting an uphill battle since arriving in St. Paul, spending much of the season's first half scrapping for minutes on the fourth line while trying to impress Boudreau.

"I wanted to prove that I am a winner," said Ennis, who spent a lot of time losing with the rebuilding Sabres. "I've won (a Memorial Cup) in juniors. I've won (a goal medal) in World Juniors. I've won a World Championship (with Team Canada). I can win. ... So, it was really trying to build a relationship with him and prove that I am a really good player, because I know he probably hasn't seen it as much."

"He's going to the dirtier areas, which is what I want him to continue to do," Boudreau said. "He's not playing as much of a perimeter game. I think he's finally learning what I expect of him and I think he was very tentative at the beginning maybe because of his past injuries. I think he's feeling strong enough now that he's doing a lot of what we want."

While confidence has undoubtedly played a role in his recent success, Ennis thinks it's more tied to him getting healthy after a couple of injury-riddled seasons in Buffalo.

"It does take a little bit of time," he said. "There was some rust not having played, being on and off with some injuries. It takes a while to build that, and especially with a transition to a new team and stuff like that. It's feeling good and I think I can even improve and be better. The confidence is building."

Now if only he could find the back of the net. Ennis had two assists in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over Florida, but he hasn't scored a goal since Dec. 14, a stretch of 10 games. He has six goals and six assists in 39 games this season.

"He's been getting chances galore; he just hasn't been able to score," Boudreau said. "He's been very competitive, and that's what's kept him in the top-nine (of the lineup) the last two weeks."

Ennis is focused on staying in that spot for the foreseeable future.

"It's great to be in an environment where winning is the only option," Ennis said. "It's fun to build some chemistry with these guys and I think my game is improving every day and I'm excited about that and want to keep growing."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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