Wild newcomer lights a spark with prowess in shootout

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2012 - 12:44 AM

Erik Christensen's shootout goal Thursday at Florida was his 12th shootout-deciding goal since the NHL instituted the skills competition in 2005.

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Erik Christensen (left)

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DALLAS - Erik Christensen's shootout goal Thursday at Florida was his 12th shootout-deciding goal since the NHL instituted the skills competition in 2005. That's one off league leaders Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby.

Yet after the Wild's victory, there was no hint of a smile from Christensen. It showed just how much he is feeling pressure to start contributing in the 65 minutes before the shootout.

Friday night, Christensen returned to American Airlines Center, where he made his Wild debut Feb. 4 after being acquired with a conditional seventh-round pick from the Rangers for Casey Wellman.

In the nine games heading into Friday's game against the Stars, Christensen had no goals, no assists and only six shots on goal -- two in the previous seven games.

"Everyone loves to score goals," said Christensen, who didn't play in New York after Dec. 17. "It's been a tough year. I think the most important thing right now for me is just play. Play the system, and goals will come.

"The first couple games when I got here, I was so focused on trying to make an immediate impact and when you don't do that, it builds and you can get that weight on your back. Hopefully I can put one in the next couple games and feel loose."

That's definitely what Wild coach Mike Yeo, who coached Christensen in both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre, is hoping.

Yeo says it must start with Christensen, who has been too weak on the puck, starting to shoot.

"You can see he's still not quite confident to the point where [shooting] is his first instinct," Yeo said before Friday's game. "He's got a great shot, so I'd love to see him get that off. He was brought in here because he's got skill and he's got the ability to make plays and create offense, so certainly we can use him."

Etc.

• Matt Cullen scored his seventh shootout goal of the season Thursday at Florida. That's tied with Pittsburgh superstar Evgeni Malkin for second in the NHL, and two behind New Jersey star Ilya Kovalchuk.

• Carson McMillan was reassigned to AHL Houston. Mikko Koivu (undisclosed) was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 16.

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