In a rarity, Wild coach Mike Yeo made veteran defenseman Greg Zanon a healthy scratch for the team's game against Chicago on Wednesday night.
This is Zanon's fourth season with the Wild and his seventh full NHL season. He has never been a healthy scratch in Minnesota, and it's something he said hasn't happened since 2006-07, when he was playing in Nashville.
"It's always a tough thing," Zanon said. "You have to try to stay as positive as you can and remember the team comes first."
Yeo said Zanon took the decision like a pro.
"It's a very tough decision, very tough," Yeo said. "These are never fun, when you have a veteran player like that, and on top of that he's a warrior. He goes out and plays the game hard every shift he's on the ice. And he's not out there to play the game for Greg Zanon. He's going out to play the game for the group."
Yeo told Zanon of his decision when Zanon arrived at the rink before the game. Zanon, coming off a groin injury, said he was surprised. "Any time you're a healthy scratch you're a little surprised," he said. "Coming back from injury, I thought I was playing well. It's a [coaching] staff decision, and you stand by that."
The Wild has a lot of depth at the position, including such young players as Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, who are playing well. The Wild has seven defensemen on its active roster and Justin Falk, recovered from an upper body injury, is on injured reserve but ready to go. But depth is necessary -- there was a rash of injuries to defensemen early this season, when Zanon sat out 16 games.
But it doesn't appear the Wild will be keeping eight defensemen around long-term. With Zanon in the final year of his contract, perhaps the team would consider making him a part of a trade.
Zanon would be a candidate to return to the lineup should a defenseman struggle, and Yeo said he doesn't want to create a situation where a player is worried that every mistake will land him in the press box. But ...
"Whether it's an injury or based on performance, he'll get an opportunity to get back in there, for sure," Yeo said of Zanon.
Coyle quits at BU
Wild prospect Charlie Coyle is leaving Boston University and will play for St. John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Coyle was a first-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2010. His rights were acquired by the Wild in the Brent Burns trade during the offseason. The 6-2, 207-pound winger had three goals and 14 points in 16 games with BU this season.
The Wild, which owns Coyle's rights for two more years, would have been willing to sign him and have him play for its AHL team in Houston. Instead Coyle will join St. John alongside Wild prospect Zack Phillips after competing for the U.S. in the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Coyle was a member of last year's bronze medal-winning U.S. team.
Earlier this week, Boston University coach Jack Parker kicked leading scorer Corey Trivino off the team after Trivino was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, so Coyle is the second big loss for the ninth-ranked Terriers this week.
Coyle was the Hockey East rookie of the year last season. His agents sent out an e-mail Friday confirming he left school and denying speculation that he flunked out. Final exams started Friday at BU, however, so he did leave school without completing the semester.