Coyle's solid play in Wild debut earns praise from Yeo

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 5, 2013 - 10:01 PM
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Charlie Coyle

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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Charlie Coyle showed flashes of his overflowing tool box in his NHL debut, the Wild's 2-1 loss in Phoenix on Monday.

The big 20-year-old skates extremely well, can make plays, has a nose for the net and is aware defensively. Two years out of prep school and mere months out of juniors, Coyle certainly looked as if he belonged on an NHL rink.

"It was a real good debut," coach Mike Yeo said of Coyle, who played on a line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and center Matt Cullen, and was robbed of his first NHL goal in the second period by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

Coyle, a first-round draft pick acquired in a 2011 trade with San Jose, left Boston University last winter and starred for Saint John, helping lead the Sea Dogs to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship with an MVP postseason.

He had his first regular- season practice with the Wild on Sunday, looked nervous (he probably drank 10 gallons of water, General Manager Chuck Fletcher joked), but he didn't look out of place.

"He seems to be a mature kid," said Cullen, 36, who was drafted when Coyle was 4 and broke into the NHL when Coyle was 6. "Big body, good player, it's fun to have him over there. We'll do all we can to help him out."

Monday's game was interesting for Coyle, who experienced his first NHL-style, players-only, closed-door meeting after the Wild's fourth road loss in four games.

"It's nice to play in your first game. You always want to win, though," Coyle said. "I made some mistakes and some plays I wish I had back, but that's a part of learning and growing. It was a good experience overall."

The only noticeable mistake Coyle made came during one third-period rush with the Wild down a goal. He had a chance to unleash a shot while flying down the right wing, and instead forced a pass to Cullen.

Coyle was expecting his parents, Theresa and Chuck; sisters Jess and Jill; cousin Trevor; and girlfriend Katherine at Monday's game, but their flight was canceled out of Boston.

"They were trying to keep it secret to [not] give me more to think about. But I found out through the grapevine," Coyle said. "That was OK. They got to watch it on TV. They'll be there for hopefully the next one I play ... and they'll be there for a win."

Stat speak

The Wild, which scored the fewest goals in the NHL since the 2004-05 lockout last season, has 20 goals in nine games (2.22 goals per game, 26th in the NHL) and four goals in regulation in the past 190 minutes, 19 seconds.

The Wild averages 26.6 shots per game, third fewest in the NHL. It has had 136 shots blocked, which ranks seventh. It has missed the net 87 times, which ranks 23rd.

Yeo is preaching more attacking of the net.

"It's not an issue of talent, it's not an issue of ability, it's just a matter of doing it a certain way," Yeo said. "Goals are scored in this league the way [Phoenix] scored them [Monday] -- a deflection, a rebound."

Said center Zenon Konopka: "We have to raise the bar. The reality of the matter is it's 48 games. You don't have time to dip your toe into the pool and see how the water is. You've got to dive in. Look at [the Ravens-49ers Super Bowl] and you saw the intensity on both sides of the ball. It was so, so intense. I think that's one thing we have to get better at is intensity and playing with a chip on our shoulder."

Etc.

• Devin Setoguchi on Coyle taking his spot on the second line: "That's the name of the game. There's always someone that'll try to take your spot. It's inner competition within the team."

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