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Continued: Working 'After Hours' pays off for young Wild players

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 14, 2014 - 6:36 AM

Players bond

Hendrickson often works with the centers Coyle and Granlund, while Brunette often works one-on-one with Niederreiter, teaching him the nuances of protecting the puck, deflecting pucks and getting shots off quickly.

The four forwards have become good friends away from the rink and love pushing each other at the rink.

“We like competing with each other and growing together,” Niederreiter said.

When Brunette was a young developing player in Washington in the mid-1990s, he worked in Portland with coaches Barry Trotz and Paul Gardner. Once he got to the NHL, he learned by absorbing everything veteran teammates Dale Hunter and Adam Oates did.

“We didn’t have the young coaches in the NHL to help,” Brunette said. “We got that in the minors, but this is a different era. These kids are getting opportunities where maybe in the pre-[salary] cap era they’re in the minors.”

Production increases

With Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise injured, Niederreiter and Granlund have been skating on the so-called first line with veteran Jason Pominville, while Coyle and Zucker have been on the so-called second line with veteran Dany Heatley.

They all have made big impacts during a streak of five victories in six games heading into Tuesday’s game against Ottawa.

Coyle has two goals and two assists the past two games. Granlund has four assists the past six games and has won 59 percent of his faceoffs in the past eight games. Niederreiter has eight points in the past eight games and a game-tying goal and shootout winner. Zucker has three goals in the six games since his fifth call-up of the season.

“We have a lot of young guys on the team, and it’s not like we’re hiding them on the fourth line or our sixth D pairing,” Yeo said. “These guys are key players on our team. We need them to contribute and be effective. They’re growing big time right now. We’re asking an awful lot from them, and they’ve really been delivering.”

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