Gilbert filling need for Wild

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 31, 2012 - 8:25 AM

Tom Gilbert is expected to give the Wild more offense from the blue line, and he showed some of that in Thursday's rally.

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Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert found his face intact after a Florida stick found itself wedged in his helmet during Thursday night's game at Xcel Energy Center.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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It was the kind of goal Wild coach Mike Yeo expects to see a lot more of in the future.

It was overtime of the Wild's game against Florida on Thursday when defenseman Tom Gilbert skated the puck out of his own zone. He moved to the right, slowed a bit, waiting for the play to develop.

Mikko Koivu, just outside the Florida zone, broke out from the wall. Gilbert threaded a perfect tape-to-tape pass that Koivu controlled at the blue line. He split Mike Weaver and Shawn Matthias up the middle and scored.

"It was a beautiful play," Yeo said.

This is what Gilbert -- a native Minnesotan acquired from Edmonton in the Nick Schultz trade -- is expected to bring to the Wild as the team moves forward. Gilbert assisted on the Wild's final two goals. His shot from the point went off a skate and off a post before Erik Christensen buried the rebound with 30 seconds left in regulation.

"I've been really impressed with his ability to skate pucks out of our zone in traffic," Yeo said of Gilbert. "And, when the pressure is on, he can take two strides and make the tape-to-tape play. As we continue to grow and continue to develop here, he's going to be such a huge part of it."

The Wild wanted Gilbert because of the offense he could bring to the blue line. Gilbert, who played both forward and defense growing up before going to defense full time in junior hockey, appears to have found a comfort zone with the Wild. Still, he said he's looking forward to next season, when he can have a full training camp with the Wild.

Yeo, meanwhile, sees Gilbert becoming more and more valuable as the Wild acquires more depth and skill at the forward position.

"No disrespect to the guys we have right now," Yeo said. "But we have some skilled guys in the lineup and we have some skill on the way here, too.''

Houston bound

With their seasons in junior hockey over, Brett Bulmer and Josh Caron -- two Wild prospects -- have been assigned to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.

Bulmer played nine games with the Wild to start the season before being reassigned to Kelowna. But with the team eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs he is headed to Houston. Bulmer was a second-round draft pick in 2010. A high-energy, hard-hitting forward, he scored 34 goals and had 62 points for the Rockets this season, with 93 penalty minutes and 19 multipoint games.

Bulmer can only be called up to the NHL if the Wild sustains another injury. The Wild is without an extra forward and has five games left this season. Should he play another game, it would count as the first season of his three-year deal.

Caron, a defenseman, was signed as a free agent in fall 2010 after being invited to the Wild's training camp. He split his 2011-12 season between Kamloops and Everett in the Western Hockey League.

Etc.

• Yeo said Jason Zucker, who made his NHL debut Thursday, played well. Zucker, who skated with Christensen and Nick Johnson, was on the ice for 12 shifts and nearly 11 minutes. Yeo said that the line, overall, could have played better but that Zucker had some good moments. "Along the wall he made some nice plays," Yeo said. "He showed some things. With every game he's going to be more confident."

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