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Wild notes: Yeo hits a winner with line changes

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • March 19, 2014 - 1:08 AM

– With the Wild searching for goals, coach Mike Yeo tinkered with his bottom three lines Tuesday night against the New York Islanders but wouldn’t divulge them hours earlier.

“We’ll wait ’til tonight and let you guys critique them,” Yeo joked.

The Star Tribune gives them five stars. Yeo couldn’t have scripted it better.

In a 6-0 win that equaled the largest margin of victory in team history, the Wild scored more than three goals for the first time in 13 games and got goals from the first, second and third lines.

There were questions before the game whether Yeo might look to spread the wealth and break up the red-hot Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line, which has combined for 15 goals and 40 points in the past 14 games.

But Yeo said Tuesday morning: “Those guys are going. So I think our first priority is to see if we can keep those guys going but find another mix.”

So against the Islanders, Yeo kept second-liners Matt Moulson and Mikko Koivu intact and put Justin Fontaine, recently scratched for five consecutive games, on their right wing. Fontaine had a goal and assist, Koivu three assists and Moulson two goals.

Charlie Coyle moved from right wing to third-line center with Dany Heatley and Nino Niederreiter, and Heatley and Niederreiter set up defenseman Jared Spurgeon for the second goal. Pominville and Parise set up Granlund for the third.

Kyle Brodziak centered the fourth line with Matt Cooke and Cody McCormick. Cooke and Brodziak had assists. Rookie Erik Haula was surprisingly scratched.

“That was a very difficult choice,” Yeo said. “We’re real happy with Haulsy right now. … We’ll call upon Haulsy again.”

Yeo said the previous lines had no identity, so he looked to put players into role and balance out the lines Tuesday.

Zucker probably out for year

Winger Jason Zucker is likely out for the season, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. He will likely need additional knee surgery after aggravating his injury while training.

“It’s gone from something minor to not,” Fletcher said.

Back to the Island

Niederreiter and Moulson returned to Long Island for the first time since being traded. Niederreiter, who has three points in two games this season against the Islanders, was acquired for Cal Clutterbuck last June. Moulson, who scored 118 goals for the Islanders, was blindsided in October when he was traded to Buffalo in the Thomas Vanek deal.

“At the time, I always believed I would be here for the rest of my career,” Moulson said Tuesday morning. “To not have any discussions about any future plans or anything, that kind of caught me off guard. I always figured something would work out. Obviously they didn’t have the same plans.”

Some have surmised that Moulson might want to return to the Islanders as a free agent this summer.

“It’s been said that I wasn’t in their future plans, so I don’t think that’ll quickly change,” he said.

Lee impresses

Islanders coach Jack Capuano beams when he talks about Edina’s Anders Lee, who had eight shots in his first game against his hometown Wild. Lee, 23, has scored six goals and 10 points in 10 games.

“He goes to the net, he puck-protects real well and his intensity around the dirty areas is tremendous,” Capuano said.

“Some of the guys that have been here might want to learn from the young guy.”

Most important, Capuano said Lee has improved his play away from the puck. “He’s playing a 200-foot game,” Capuano said.

Lee got a taste of the NHL last season and said, “I feel a lot more comfortable.”

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