Heatley's line running on all cylinders

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2012 - 6:39 AM

For five games now, it seems every single time the Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Johnson line hops the boards, the puck enters the offensive zone, the opponent is hemmed in for long stretches and the trio generates oodles of scoring chances.

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Dany Heatley’s line includes Nick Johnson and Kyle Brodziak. What happens when Mikko Koivu returns?

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COLUMBUS, OHIO - For five games now, it seems every single time the Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Johnson line hops the boards, the puck enters the offensive zone, the opponent is hemmed in for long stretches and the trio generates oodles of scoring chances.

Heatley, in particular, has been jumpstarted in a way Wild fans have waited for since he was traded to Minnesota last July.

Well, captain Mikko Koivu, Heatley's linemate from Day 1, is close to returning from a shoulder injury, maybe as early as Tuesday in Columbus.

What to do? What to do?

Thursday morning in Denver, when asked if he would keep the Heatley-Brodziak-Johnson line intact, coach Mike Yeo was noncommittal. After Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss in Dallas, a game in which Brodziak scored a breakaway goal and the three combined for 15 of the Wild's 34 shots, Yeo indicated it would be hard to break up what's clicking so well.

"Certainly, this is something that we would have to look into if Mikko were to come back on Tuesday," Yeo said. "That line is playing really well. ... No. 1, we have to find a way to make sure that Brodzy and Johnny keep playing at the level that they're at, and Heater as well.

"But we have to make sure that when we're making these decisions that we give Mikko a good chance to come in and have the type of impact that he's capable of."

Maybe Yeo will initially skate Koivu with his former linemate, Devin Setoguchi. Talk about somebody in dire need of a jumpstart. Setoguchi's barely getting scoring chances anymore, has two goals in 11 games since returning from a knee injury Jan. 4 and has scored 10 goals and is minus-10 in 39 games.

Heatley, who has worked relentlessly since the All-Star break, has scored four goals and eight points in the past five games, and even though he was held off the scoresheet in Dallas, he was all over the puck and had eight shots. He leads the Wild with 17 goals, 38 points and a plus-10.

"It's one of those things where you find chemistry with guys," Heatley said of playing with Johnson and Brodziak. "I hadn't really played with either of them all year, but I think those two guys really hound the puck, they're really good on the forecheck and they really get on the D and create turnovers.

"They look for me all the time, so it's a lot of fun to play with them."

Yeo's been delighted with how the three have been committed to creating turnovers, getting pucks deep and playing behind the defensemen. The three were pests against the Stars, wreaking havoc by constantly getting sticks on pucks and pressuring.

That's how Johnson and Heatley created Brodziak's two breakaways -- the second of which he finished to force overtime in a one-sided Wild third period.

"Johnny is great on the forecheck, holding the puck down low and creating turnovers," said Brodziak, who is riding a career-long six-game point streak. "Heater controls the puck a lot, and he's very good at turning the puck over."

Heatley was diplomatic when asked if he would prefer to stay with Brodziak.

"That's up to Yeosie. Obviously, Mikko's a great player, so we'll see what he does there," Heatley said.

Yeo said it's just important "we're surrounding Mikko with the right pieces. We were a pretty good team with Mikko playing with Heater, too."

Prosser to sign

According to multiple sources, the Wild will avoid restricted free agency with Nate Prosser this summer by signing the reliable defenseman to a two-year, one-way contract extension on Monday.

The 25-year-old Elk River native was signed as a free agent out of Colorado College in 2010. He has been one of the Wild's most consistent defenseman this season, shuttling back and forth between Minnesota and Houston because he doesn't require waivers.

The Wild is 14-7-2 with Prosser in the lineup. He has six assists in 23 games and is an even plus-minus while averaging 20 minutes, 37 seconds a game.

  • WILD NOTES

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