With two roster cuts yet to make, Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday he still is not certain who will stay and who will go. His comments after practice, however, made clear his current feelings about forwards Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund.
A day after saying he “wasn’t crazy” about Zucker’s play in a 3-1 preseason victory over the St. Louis Blues, Yeo said the winger needs to “get more engaged.” He also lauded Granlund, who has missed the past two games because of a minor injury. Granlund will play in Friday’s preseason finale at St. Louis, while Yeo said there is a very good chance that Zucker will be in the lineup as well.
Yeo wouldn’t characterize the game as a head-to-head competition between Granlund and Zucker for a roster spot. He did say it would be an important night for lots of players trying to make an impression, including two youngsters trying to stake their claims.
“He just wasn’t really much of a factor in the game,” Yeo said of Zucker, who saw limited minutes Wednesday, mostly on the fourth line. “I thought he was losing races to pucks, and that shouldn’t happen with his speed. He’s got to be more involved. It’s not an easy thing to do against a team like St. Louis, but you’ve got to be a factor out there.”
Zucker has played three of the five preseason games and sat out four days of camp after injuring his groin in the preseason opener. He did not use the missed time as an excuse and said he must go all-out in Friday’s game.
“There’s no other way,” Zucker said. “It’s nobody’s fault but myself. You’ve got to go out and perform.”
Granlund has drawn praise throughout training camp, and Yeo said he had “another great day” Thursday.
The coach especially liked what he saw from Granlund during work on the power play, when he was teamed with Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter.
“It’s a good dynamic with the three of those guys,” Yeo said. “You’ve got big bodies, guys that are good around the net, and you’ve got a puck distributor [Granlund] who sees the ice really well and can shoot it, too, if there’s a lot of room. It was fun watching them.”
Mitchell moving up?
Forward Torrey Mitchell spent much of last season on the Wild’s fourth line, where he was part of a very effective trio. During the preseason, Mitchell has played on both the third and fourth lines and is the Wild’s third-leading scorer with a goal and two assists in four games.
Yeo said he particularly likes what he has seen from Mitchell as the third-line right wing, with center Kyle Brodziak and left wing Matt Cooke. “You can tell he’s motivated,” Yeo said. “And I know [Brodziak and Cooke] like playing with him, too. They’ve been a good fit. There’s no guarantees we’re going to continue to go like that, but I certainly feel comfortable if we do.’’