Even during their days in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Michel Therrien could see something in Mike Yeo. Friday, the Montreal coach said he always believed Yeo had the right stuff to become an NHL head coach, and he is happy to see him at the helm of the Wild.
The two faced each other as opposing head coaches Friday for the first time since Yeo took the Wild job in 2011. As a young assistant coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton — a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins — Yeo learned from Therrien, who became the team’s head coach in 2003. They continued to work together when Therrien was named the Penguins’ head coach in 2005 and brought Yeo with him.
Therrien was fired in 2009. He returned to Montreal, where he began his NHL coaching career, in 2012. Yeo — who beat out his mentor for the Wild job — said he was excited to coach against a man he credits with helping him build his career.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today talking to you if it wasn’t for him,’’ Yeo said. “He taught me a great deal and gave me a ton of great experience. He allowed me to develop as a coach, and obviously, I had a lot of success working with him.’’
Therrien lauded Yeo for his work ethic, hockey knowledge and ability to relate to players. “I really enjoyed my time with him,’’ said Therrien, who was a part-time pro scout for the Wild before returning to the Montreal bench.
“I tried to help him and, certainly, he helped me, too. This is what coaching is all about, sharing and pulling the same way. I knew eventually he would get a shot at being a head coach in the NHL.’’
Defenseman Jonas Brodin returned to the Wild lineup Friday after missing three games because of a broken cheekbone. Yeo had been cautious about bringing Brodin back too early, but Brodin’s sharp play in practice — and the rapidly dwindling swelling and pain in his face — convinced the coach it was time.
Brodin played with a full plastic bubble shield to protect his face. “It’s not bad,’’ said Brodin, who tried and rejected a cage-style facemask last week. “It’s not the same as a half-shield. I’ll have to take it off and clean it once in a while on the bench.’’
Working through it
Wild goalie Josh Harding, diagnosed last year with multiple sclerosis, has declined to answer questions about his health since the season started. Friday, Yeo said that Harding’s commitment has allowed him to thrive while managing his illness. Harding entered Friday’s game with a goals-against average of 1.00 and a save percentage of .953, both NHL bests.
“It is a challenge, no question,” Yeo said. “He comes to the rink every day and he does what he has to do as far as taking care of himself.
“He’s been quite a story, and not just on the days when we’ve seen him be effective in the games. In order for that to happen, you’ve got to have effective practices. You have to have quality ice time. He does that day in and day out.’’