Wild Experiments With Line Combinations
After taking yesterday off, it was an eventful day for the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Center Charlie Coyle is primed to return to the lineup after missing nearly a month of game action with a knee sprain. The forward said he is excited to get back into the swing of things Friday as the Wild hosts the Montreal Canadiens. After the skate, Coyle spoke to WildTV about getting back.
Coyle’s injury left a large void up the middle in the Minnesota lineup, as he looked like he was set for a breakout season after a great training camp and preseason. But the Wild played well in his absence, especially fellow second-year center Mikael Granlund, who has stepped up and earned significant playing time.
With Coyle on the verge of return, the big question was where he’d fit in the lineup. While that question won’t be answered till Friday, today we saw Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has been pondering scenarios as he significantly shook up the lines. For the first time, Yeo split up Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, which made media members, present company included, atwitter as they covered practice:
Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise split up in today's #mnwild practice— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) October 30, 2013
Who knows if this holds, but major line shuffles for the wild at practice. 11-3-15 22-9-21 24-64-29 14-28-17— Anthony LaPanta (@AnthonyLaPanta) October 30, 2013
@ChadGraff Or Granlund-Cooke-Pominville— Mike Doyle (@mikedoyle_12) October 30, 2013
Second round of line rushes has Fontaine on first line, Heatley on fourth. Dice rolling today at #mnwild practice— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) October 30, 2013
I'm done tracking lines. See you Friday.— Kevin Falness (@RadioFalness) October 30, 2013
After practice, Parise said that they were “possible” line changes, as nothing is set in stone. One thing that Yeo pointed out was that each line has similar attributes: skill, a big body, a guy who can get to the net and score, and a physical element. So the Lighthouse will wait till we get a little closer to Friday before we start penciling in our lineup card.
On the blue line, a familiar, albeit a little more protected, face was back skating with the team today. Defenseman Jonas Brodin joined the team for the first time since suffering a fractured cheekbone after taking a puck to the face on Oct. 22 against Nashville. The 20-year-old was wearing a full mask for protection. Yeo said they’d take a wait-and-see approach with Brodin getting back into the lineup. Brodin talked to the PONDcast after practice.
Brodin skated with rookie Mathew Dumba, who skated in his ninth game on Saturday. After practice, Yeo said that Dumba wouldn’t be in the lineup Friday, and the team still has to make a decision on whether or not they’ll keep the 19-year-old. The Wild can still return him to Junior without the first year of his contract kicking in, but if he plays in a 10th game, the first year of his contract will start. After 10 games, Minnesota can reassign Dumba to Junior, but he can then only be recalled under emergency circumstances.
After practice, Yeo said that he’d be “surprised” if Keith Ballard, who hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 14, isn’t ready to go by Friday.
So here’s what the blue line pairings looked like today:
Veilleux Placed on Waivers
With Coyle's return pending, the Wild placed forward Stephane Veilleux on waivers. If he clears, Veilleux will be reassigned to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild.
If you follow Nino Niederreiter (@thelnino25), you probably saw this amazing photo yesterday. Even better, the trio didn’t plan on flying as a squadron. Coyle said that he was giving Niederreiter and Granlund a ride and when he went to pick them up, he had no idea that he’d have the same costume. The Lighthouse didn’t have the courage to ask Yeo if he would do us a solid and put the three on the same line so we could use the pic every day. One question: Who shot-gunned the call sign Maverick?
Hockey Fights Cancer Online Auction
The Minnesota Wild Foundation is hosting an online auction. Fans can bid on exclusive Minnesota Wild autographed memorabilia, including items that range from Hockey Fights Cancer caps to autographed game-used goal pucks. This auction will be open through Sunday, November 2. The auction coincides with the NHL’s league-wide initiative, Hockey Fights Cancer, which is celebrated throughout the month of October each season.