The Wild and Dany Heatley hope it’s a start.
The once-feared goal scorer, off to the worst start in his career with no goals and two assists in the first 10 games, scored his first goal of the season with an empty-net power-play goal with 26 seconds left in Thursday’s 3-1 win over Carolina.
Coach Mike Yeo admitted Heatley was put on the ice with the hope he’d get the goal. It came after Matt Cooke selflessly passed up a shot at the yawning cage to set up Heatley.
“Regardless of the freebie from Cookie, I felt good tonight,” said Heatley, who has scored 361 goals — 140 on the power play (first in the NHL since 2001). “First time I’ve felt good. We’ll talk to the coaches and see what they thought, but I felt good.”
Heatley, who besides being scoreless hasn’t skated well and has turned pucks over, knows his first 10 games weren’t up to par. Even Thursday, he was on the ice often and took a penalty that led to a power-play goal.
“I just felt pretty rusty and tried to work my way out of it,” he said. “Tonight I felt like we had a few real good chances that could have gone. For me, that’s something to build on.”
Teammates hope, as Zach Parise said, that the goal will be a “good shot of confidence … because we need a lot of goals from him.”
“I don’t think he’s had adversity like this scoring goals in his career,” added close friend and teammate Clayton Stoner. “It’s weighed on his mind a lot. Empty-netter or not, I think it’s going to take pressure off him. He’s just got to have that confidence and that swagger and know he’s one of the elite goal scorers in the league.”
Yeo offered promising news on injured youngsters Jonas Brodin and Charlie Coyle.
No surgery is planned as of now on Brodin’s broken cheekbone. In fact, the defenseman, who was injured Tuesday, nearly skated Thursday.
The team decided to hold Brodin off the ice, but he may skate (perhaps on his own) Friday.
Coyle, who has missed nine games since spraining his right medial collateral ligament on Oct. 5, participated in Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s a good first step, and I don’t think he’s too far away now,” Yeo said.
Before Coyle can return, he would need to participate in battle drills and get into game shape.
It’s clear he has worked hard off the ice. “It was kind of lonely doing workouts by myself,” said Coyle, who is wearing a knee brace for the first time in his career. “[My knee] gets better each day. I can feel it.”
There isn’t a timetable for his return yet, but with practice scheduled for Friday, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, next Friday’s home game against Montreal may be a realistic target.
“I want to be out there as fast as I can,” Coyle said, “but I also don’t want it to backfire on me and get hurt again and start the process all over.”