Wild notes: Yeo willing to alter top line if needed

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2013 - 12:07 AM

With his team yet to win a game in its first-round playoff series against Chicago, Wild coach Mike Yeo said Saturday that he is open to making any changes that might help.

 

With his team yet to win a game in its first-round playoff series against Chicago, Wild coach Mike Yeo said Saturday that he is open to making any changes that might help. That includes possibly splitting up the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle, which has one assist and no goals entering Sunday’s Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center.

The line has not scored despite generating 17 shots on goal in the Wild’s two losses in Chicago. Though Yeo said “we’ll consider everything’’ to get the Wild on track, all of its lines were intact during Saturday’s practice at Xcel. He also cautioned against making hasty changes with the series moving to Minnesota for two games.

Yeo was more concerned Saturday with identifying and correcting the problems that led to Friday’s 5-2 thumping. After a gritty effort in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss, the Wild was badly outplayed in Game 2.

“If we think (splitting up the top line) is what we need, then that’s something we would be willing to do, for sure,’’ Yeo said. “Again, we’re coming home. It’s a little bit of a different situation now. … I think because we played one game that wasn’t good, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here.’’

Parise said his line simply has to score on the opportunities it is getting. He noted that it has managed to set up high-quality chances in each game against a Blackhawks defense that yields few of them. He also is pleased with his line’s defensive play; it has held the Blackhawks’ top line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa — which scored 50 goals in 48 regular-season games — without a five-on-five goal.

But that, Parise emphasized, is not good enough. He said the Wild must protect the puck better and spend more time in the Chicago zone to give itself a chance — and make sure it finishes.

“We’ve got to find a way,’’ said Parise, who has nine shots on goal and no points in the series. “Game 1, I had one in overtime. Game 2, I had about 15 whacks right in front of the net. You’ve got to put those in. No excuses.’’

Backstrom’s status still uncertain

Goaltender Niklas Backstrom practiced Saturday, but he evaded questions about whether he is physically able to play. Backstrom suffered a lower-body injury during warm-ups before Game 1. He traveled to Chicago for Game 2 and participated in the pregame skate, but he was not in uniform for the game.

“It’s getting better,’’ Backstrom said. “It’s going to be there sooner or later. Every day you try to make some progress. We’ll see where we are (Sunday) morning.’’

Yeo also avoided the question of whether Backstrom was ready to rejoin the lineup, but he sounded optimistic. “He’s looked really good every day,’’ he said.

Yeo added that he had no updates on the status of forward Jason Pominville (head injury) and defenseman Clayton Stoner (upper body). Pominville has missed four games, and Stoner sat out Friday after absorbing a hard hit in Game 1. Neither practiced Saturday, and both are listed as day-to-day.

Etc.

• The Wild’s minor league affiliate in Houston completed its first-round playoff series against Grand Rapids on Saturday, and some players could be recalled. Veteran forward Stephane Veilleux is among those expected to be called up.

• Being down 2-0 in the series has not caused Yeo to lose hope, because he has firsthand knowledge that it can be overcome. When he was an assistant coach with Pittsburgh in 2009, the Penguins twice fell behind 2-0 — to Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals and to Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals — and won both series.

• Parise said the Wild must take advantage of the fact that it will have the last line change at home. Yeo agreed, but he noted that Chicago’s depth allows coach Joel Quenneville plenty of flexibility. “I didn’t feel like matchups were something they were chasing overly hard last game,’’ Yeo said. “We saw everybody going against everybody.’’

• Yeo lamented the absence of Pominville, who had four goals and five assists in 10 games before he was injured. “I wish we had him in the lineup for sure,’’ Yeo said. “He’s a good player for us, especially his experience and leadership.’’

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