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March Mania

What’s missing from Wild winger Mats Zuccarello’s game now: fun

Minnesota Wild forward Mats Zuccarello (36) and forward Zach Parise (11) talk during a faceoff in the second period of a Tuesday, Sept. 17, against Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — Mats Zuccarello admits he isn’t having much fun right now.

Which might be his biggest problem.

“Just need get my confidence up and stop worrying about everything and start having fun again,” Zuccarello said. “I think at the end of the day everyone started playing this game because it was fun. I need to find a way to get back to that. Just stop overthinking and let it go and enjoy myself.”

That’s been tough as of late for the 32-year-old winger.

In the midst of his longest scoring drought since signing with the Wild this offseason, Zuccarello hasn’t recorded a point in six games, and more often than not has looked invisible on the ice.

Not exactly the type of playmaker former general manager Paul Fenton hoped for when he signed Zuccarello to a five-year, $30 million contract this offseason.

He has 14 goals and 16 assist this season — fair production, at best, considering he has played exclusively in the top half the lineup — and has struggled with his confidence time and time again.

“We are human beings, and when the confidence goes down, everything goes bad,” Zuccarello said. “You try to do the right thing and it ends up being the wrong thing. It’s hard when I’m in that hole where I’m blaming myself for everything. Just need to get out of it.”

It’s not the first time he has been so hard on himself.

Asked about similar struggles during the first month of the season, Zuccarello poignantly owned up to his lack of production before rediscovering his offensive prowess.

He spoke in a similar tone over the weekend, so maybe it’s simply a motivation tactic that Zuccarello uses on himself when times get tough.

Not that he’s feeling sorry for himself. He has been in the NHL for more than a decade now, and knows sometimes a little success can go a long way toward breaking out of a slump.

“It’s as simple as that,” Zuccarello said. “Just scoring a goal and feeling a part of it and getting some momentum. Most of the players go through stretches where stuff goes not the way we want it to go. We have all played for a long time and know there are ups and downs. Just be positive and have fun and know it’s going to come.”

That said, Zuccarello knows he has to make his own luck at some point. He’s hoping to do that starting with Wednesday’s road game against the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s no fun to feel that way and feel like I’m not playing up to my best,” Zuccarello said. “There’s nothing I can do except keep working hard and showing up.”