Wild rookie Coyle: Upward bound ... in a hurry

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2013 - 11:33 AM

Charlie Coyle made his NHL debut Monday, and on Wednesday was practicing with the Wild's first line.

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One of the Wild's top prospects, Charlie Coyle

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Charlie Coyle walked into the dressing room Wednesday morning and had no clue that all it took was one game for him to catapult to right wing on the Wild's first line.

"I didn't see it until guys started making jokes," Coyle said, laughing, after practicing Wednesday alongside Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. "[Matt] Cullen was like, 'Oh, just one game and you're already off our line.' I just thought they were joking and I looked [at the board] and was like, 'Oh.'"

Coyle, 20, replaced slumping goal-scorer Dany Heatley, 32, on the line. Although coach Mike Yeo said there were no guarantees Wednesday's line maneuvering would filter into Thursday's game against the Vancouver Canucks, it would be a surprise if it didn't.

With urgency needed and losses magnified in this shortened season, Yeo is desperately trying to find the right line mixes.

Coyle had a solid NHL debut Monday at Phoenix, and the Wild's top line has had trouble generating chances since a shootout loss Jan. 27 at St. Louis.

Heatley, in particular, has no points in the past three games and one goal and one assist in the past six games. Heatley, who has scored 353 goals (138 on the power play), uses his shot total as a measuring stick as to how he's performing, and he has only eight during that span.

Still, Heatley said, "I don't feel like I'm fighting it. We haven't won in our last few. [Yeo] talked about making a change I think last week. I wouldn't say it was unexpected and I'm playing with two real creative guys now [in Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard], so hopefully we can get something done."

Three of Heatley's four goals have come from the goal mouth, so Yeo said, "We have to find a way to get him there and find a way to get pucks there when he is there."

Yeo said Coyle looked good at times with Parise and Koivu on Wednesday and "nervous" at other times.

"He just has to remember why he's there," Yeo said.

Coyle, whose family is expected to attend his home debut after having their flight canceled to Phoenix on Monday, should bring size, hard work, quality wall play and a net presence to the line.

"I'm always watching every little thing [Parise and Koivu] do," Coyle said. "They're such good examples on and off the ice. They're obviously great players. They're not just skilled, but they work hard. I'm not going to change anything in my game and we'll see if we click."

Parise is impressed with the San Jose Sharks 2010 first-round pick.

"He had a really good game in Phoenix," Parise said. "He plays smart, he's big, he protects the puck well. I think he'll fit in really well with us. You always want to try different looks. I think it'll be good."

Newly acquired Mike Rupp will make his Wild debut Thursday. He practiced on the fourth line with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell and already met expectations.

"He's big," Yeo said jokingly about the 6-5 forward. "He didn't shrink at all."

Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund rotated spots on the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck.

One forward will have to come out, but Yeo said the Thursday lineup hasn't been finalized. It's not an easy decision because Setoguchi and Granlund, two players Yeo challenged in Phoenix, seemed to respond.

"We have to sort it out," Yeo said.

After the Wild's second consecutive loss Monday evened its record at 4-4-1, the Wild held a 25-minute player- only meeting. It knows it hasn't been good enough.

With seven of the next nine games against division foes, Parise said, "The urgency is now and the urgency should have been there for a little bit. These are big games. These really will dictate where we're going to go from here on out.

"We've had good meetings, a good practice. I think we'll get things going."

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