EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Matt Cullen’s presence in the Wild lineup can’t be measured only by his obvious impact on the ice. Between the regular season and playoffs, the 36-year-old center has played 1,131 games, so the leadership Cullen brings is invaluable.
Jason Zucker, 21, admits that Monday in Calgary “wasn’t my best game.” He didn’t get pucks deep, turned them over and took a careless penalty in the Wild’s 4-3 victory. But every time Zucker got back to the bench, Cullen was in his linemate’s ear like a coach.
“I wasn’t doing a lot of the little things that in the grand scheme of things, while some guys think they don’t matter, they can necessarily change a game, like not getting pucks deep,” Zucker said. “So for me, it’s huge having him tell me all those little details of the game that can make me a more consistent player.
“It’s great having him mentor me. He’s been around the block. He knows the game and all the details of it.”
Asked what he was trying to convey to Zucker, Cullen said, “He’s got a real great asset in his speed, so if we can utilize that and get him to use it as much as possible. I think it’s natural for a young kid to look to pass and defer to the older guys. … He’s a very good player and he’s going to be very good for a long time. For him, he can get pucks back for us, get pucks in and with his speed, get in there and create turnovers. So we just need to continue to work on that.”
Coach Mike Yeo loves the veteran leadership the Wild has throughout its lineup.
“Look at a guy like Zuck, and you’ve got a guy like Cully helping him along. [Jonas] Brodin with Suts [Ryan Suter] and Charlie [Coyle] with Mikko Koivu,” Yeo said.
“We’ve got young guys that they’re here and they’re in our lineup. We need them to contribute, we need to continue to get better and to have an impact on the game. These guys have done a great job mentoring these guys and helping them along.”
Dental work ahead
Coyle will need a root canal when he returns to Minnesota after being high-sticked by Calgary’s Mark Giordano on Monday.
“I thought I was ready to score and then it happened,” he said.
Besides stitches vertically across the top of his tongue, Coyle chipped some upper teeth.
“I have a lisp now, I’m spitting in people’s faces, I couldn’t eat or drink on the plane because it was stinging, my eyes are watering,” Coyle said, laughing. “Not fun at all.”
Coyle only wore a “comfy” mouth guard on his bottom row of teeth but said, “I think I’ll switch it up now.”
By the way, Coyle, who hails from outside Boston and went to Boston University, was saddened by Monday’s bombings.
“Thank God, all my family’s OK, but I feel so badly for those families that lost people and are suffering,” he said.
Stop that plane!