The Wild's Dany Heatley (15) congratulated goalie Niklas Backstrom following Minnesota's 2-1 overtime shootout victory over Edmonton on Thursday,

John Ulan, Canadian Press/AP

Heatley, Setoguchi change sides

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • October 21, 2011 - 12:38 AM

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - It may seem like a small tweak, but Wild coach Mike Yeo hopes it will pay big dividends.

After an entire preseason and six games of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi playing on their off wings, the left-shot Heatley moved to his natural left-wing position and the right-shot Setoguchi to his natural right-wing position Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Setoguchi had spent his entire pro career playing right wing. But since coming to Minnesota from San Jose, he moved to the left side in order to accommodate Heatley, who likes playing the off wing and had done so previously in Atlanta and San Jose.

But with the line struggling to generate offense and speed coming through the neutral zone, Yeo made the switch in hopes of jump-starting the top line.

"I've never really played the left side before, so we were trying it out," Setoguchi said. "Heater wanted to play right, so I figured I could play left. It's nice at times and sometimes it's not, like catching a pass. I'm used to playing the right side and he knows how to play the left, so we'll see how this works out."

Yeo also moved Heatley and Setoguchi back to their strong sides because he noticed a tendency of both players skating east-west instead of north with the puck.

"The tendency is to pull it back to the forehand and then look towards the middle of the ice a lot," said Yeo, who noted that Setoguchi's two goals through six games came from the right side of the ice.

Setoguchi was dropped to the second line Tuesday against Pittsburgh when Yeo looked for a spark from the team. But Yeo said Setoguchi must get out of the habit of trying to force pucks to Heatley and deferring to both Heatley and linemate Mikko Koivu.

Yeo wants the 24-year-old Setoguchi to "open the door and say, 'Guys, here I am,'" Yeo said. "You're playing with two great players, and the mentality is to maybe let those guys do all the work and make the play and then kind of be there when they need you.

"I'd like to see him assert himself and say, 'I'm a huge part of this line.'"

This is a big adjustment year for Setoguchi, who was always fighting for ice time in San Jose. Setoguchi averaged between 15 and 16 minutes a night his first three years in the NHL -- 15 minutes, 12 seconds a game last year. Through six games, he's averaged 19:17 a game with the Wild.

Yeo said Setoguchi has been too stationary as he waits for Heatley and Koivu to make plays. He wants him to be tenacious on the puck and use his speed to drive wide on defenders.

"If he's playing really well, you should see a lot of movement in his game," Yeo said.

No lineup changes

Despite threatening to tinker with the lineup Thursday after a disappointing loss to the Penguins, Yeo came back with the same 18 skaters and goaltender (Niklas Backstrom) against the Oilers.

"I do like giving guys a chance to respond," Yeo said. "It's tough. We have guys that we want to get into the lineup right now [Nick Johnson, Matt Kassian, Justin Falk], and we have guys that we want to continue to give games to and build some consistency with the group we have.

"We're trying to juggle those decisions every day."


• With Wild farmhand Drew Bagnall fully rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery, the defenseman cleared waivers Thursday and will make his season debut for the Houston Aeros on Friday in Charlotte.

• Wild prospect Carson McMillan has been suspended four games by the American Hockey League for an illegal check to a San Antonio opponent's head.

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