So, those new lines the Wild introduced last week? As they say in New Jersey, fuhgettaboutit.
By the third period of Friday night’s 4-3 victory over Montreal, those lines — which had been reconfigured in an attempt to create more balance — had disappeared. Saturday, coach Mike Yeo said they simply didn’t work as he hoped.
The tried-and-true combinations that surfaced late in Friday’s game remained in place at Saturday’s practice, and they will likely stay intact when the Wild play New Jersey on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
Charlie Coyle will move back to wing on a top line that reunites center Mikko Koivu and winger Zach Parise. The prolific pairing of center Mikael Granlund and winger Jason Pominville will be completed by Nino Niederreiter. Kyle Brodziak moves back to center to rejoin Matt Cooke, with Justin Fontaine on the other wing. Dany Heatley will go to the fourth line with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell.
Yeo said it was a particular challenge on Friday to transition out of power plays, because those units mixed players from several of the remade lines. He also wanted to get players back into their comfort zones.
“It was not easy,” he said of the power-play issue. “Part of [reverting] also was just getting guys back into positions where it suits their roles, making sure we have some identities to the lines and allowing players to play to their strengths.”
Yeo hedged a bit on Heatley’s place in the lineup. Friday, he alternated Heatley and Fontaine between the first and fourth lines, but he said Saturday he isn’t sure what he will do in Sunday’s game.
Heatley remains mired in a deep slump, with one empty-net goal and two assists in 14 games. Friday, his ice time dropped to 10 minutes, 54 seconds, his season low. Heatley did not register a shot on goal and was penalized for holding a stick in the third period, a penalty that led to a Montreal power-play goal.
As for playing on the fourth line, Heatley said Yeo is “the boss” and that he will try his best no matter where he is placed. He added that he feels fine physically and has no answers for his drought.
“It’s always tough mentally, but you’ve just got to keep going,” said Heatley, who has 361 career goals and was third on the Wild last season with 11.
“History tells you that stretches like this end, and pucks start going into the net again,” Heatley said. “When you’re not scoring, you start doing things you don’t normally do. You’ve just got to come to the rink every day with a fresh attitude and try to get back to the good habits.”
• Yeo said putting Coyle at wing is the best fit for now until he gets back up to speed after missing 11 games because of a sprained knee. The coach left open the possibility of shifting Coyle back to center, but he likes the way he works with Koivu and Parise.
• Ryan Suter had logged the most ice time of any skater in every game he had played this season — until Friday. Defensive partner Jonas Brodin, who had missed three games because of a broken cheekbone, played 26:54 in his return, 19 seconds more than Suter.