Prosser is providing an edge with heady, aggressive play

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • December 31, 2011 - 7:19 PM

Nate Prosser's not the flashiest fellow, but he sees the ice well, moves the puck quickly and makes smart plays.

Wild coach Mike Yeo "loves the way he's playing," which is why the Elk River native and up-and-down Houston Aeros defenseman was in the lineup again New Year's Eve against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Well, that and the fact the Wild often wins when he plays. The Wild is 11-5-1 with Prosser and 10-8-5 without him.

"The biggest part of our game that has to come along -- and it's a huge part of our game -- is how we execute from the back end. It's the biggest key," Yeo said. "The amount of times he's made subtle plays coming out of the defensive zone just alleviates so much pressure.

"For a young kid, he does it at the most tense of times."

Yeo is talking about those times the Wild is pinned, yet Prosser, 25, gets the puck and instead of frantically throwing it around the boards, he makes a poised play to get the puck out of trouble for a line change.

But often before it develops into that, Prosser's retrievals and execution coming out of the defensive zone have been spot-on. He is king of the good first pass to the forwards.

"He understands our game well and plays it well," Yeo said.

Yeo also loves the "edge" he brings.

"He's a, I don't want to swear, he's a jerk out there and I like that because he's smart about it," Yeo said. "He's not doing it to [Edmonton enforcer] Darcy Hordichuk. He's doing it to [Edmonton scorers] Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth. If he can get them off their game a little bit, then more power to us."

Because the Wild's carrying eight defensemen when healthy, Prosser has been on a revolving door to Houston because he doesn't require waivers to get there. That's just a fact of NHL life.

Lineup changes

Jarod Palmer was placed on injured reserve because of an "upper body" injury and Jed Ortmeyer was recalled to play the fourth line with Warren Peters and Matt Kassian.

Brad Staubitz was scratched for the first time since Oct. 27. Colton Gillies, scratched Thursday against Edmonton, returned.

Because Phoenix offered a less petulant lineup than Edmonton, Yeo felt the Wild didn't need two bruisers. So Staubitz sat because Kassian deserved to be back in.

"We always want to look at it like, 'Wow, what did that guy do?' Sometimes it's some of the things the other guys do. Kass had a great game last game," Yeo said, chuckling, "in his two minutes of ice time, but he had an effect. So, keep him in tonight."


• Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, after missing two games because of a leg injury, made a surprise return against the Coyotes -- meaning the need for two scratches. With Prosser, Greg Zanon and Justin Falk playing well, Marco Scandella, who struggled against the Oilers and is minus-6 the past four games, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season, while Mike Lundin was scratched for the fifth time in six games.

• Houston Aeros goalie Matt Hackett nearly ignited a postgame brawl after a 5-2 victory over San Antonio on Friday when he did a victory dance that mocked Rampage goalie Jacob Markstrom's TV timeout dance in mid-December (can be seen on YouTube).

"Just want to apologize to the rampage and the fans for that classless act at the end of the game by me," Hackett tweeted from his @matthackett31 account.

• The Wild will hold an outdoor practice at the John Rose Oval in Roseville at noon on Jan. 22.

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