Yeo wants Heatley to earn bigger role

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 18, 2014 - 12:05 AM

Wild forward Dany Heatley

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON, Star Tribune file

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– So far things are publicly hunky-dory between Mike Yeo and Dany Heatley, but the coach and his veteran goal-scorer had a lengthy 1-on-1 chat on the ice Monday morning.

It was a candid conversation open for everybody to see and easy to ascertain afterward that the subject was not “dinner,” as Heatley kiddingly contended, but rather his fourth-line role.

“I don’t want him to be happy and satisfied being on the fourth line,” Yeo said. “We had a talk when it first happened, and he’s been handling it really well. Like I said, I don’t want him to be, ‘Everything’s great.’ I want him demanding more ice time. The No. 1 way to do that is through your play.”

It’s clear Yeo not only wants more from Heatley, but he also wants to get to the point where he feels comfortable rolling out four lines like some of the league’s top teams, including Monday’s opponent, the Boston Bruins.

Heatley has had an up-and-down season but was playing his best hockey at the time of the Matt Moulson acquisition from Buffalo. The byproduct was Heatley returning to the fourth line, where he played at times during the season’s first half, and getting eight or nine minutes a night.

“It’s an adjustment,” Yeo said. “I just talked to him about that, talked to him about his game, what we need from him, but at the same time, we have to be trying to find a way to get him more involved through the course of the game so he’s not sitting on the bench five minutes. It’s tougher for a big body like that.”

The 33-year-old Heatley, who has 372 career goals, bided his time earlier this season on the fourth line and knows he has to be patient again.

“When we had some injuries, I got a chance to play and things went pretty good,” Heatley said. “Obviously we don’t have injuries. But as we go toward the end of the year and the playoffs, teams usually move around some things. So we’ll see what happens. Just try to play my game and keep getting better.”

Fontaine in, McCormick out

Rookie right winger Justin Fontaine, a scratch in the previous five games, returned against the Bruins and Cody McCormick sat.

The Moulson and McCormick additions affected Fontaine more than anybody on the roster.

“I’m looking to see him come in and hopefully get right to where he was when he came out of the lineup,” Yeo said before the game. “When he’s playing well, he’s playing a strong game in the offensive zone, he’s executing along the wall and he’s a reliable two-way player.”

Fontaine said, “It’s never fun sitting out, but you’re putting in the work to stay sharp. When you get a chance, you just have to take advantage of it.”

Defenseman Nate Prosser was scratched as Yeo continued his third defense pair rotation. Yeo said that Prosser, Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard will each play two of the three games on the road trip.

Etc.

•  Yeo met with Weymouth, Mass., native Charlie Coyle before his first-ever game in his hometown and said he plans to have the same conversation with Nino Niederreiter, who will play his first game at the Islanders on Tuesday since being traded to Minnesota in June. “Whenever you have a game like that, they’re going to want results, they’re going to want success,” Yeo said. “But the only thing that matters is playing a good game. Make sure the focus is in the right place.”

• Bruins veteran Jarome Iginla, who scored his 300th goal, 600th point and 500th goal against the Wild, played his 1,300th game Monday. The former Flames captain is the all-time leading scorer against the Wild, and he added to it with a second-period goal and an empty-netter in the third. He has 37 goals and 67 points against the Wild. “I have to pinch myself that I’ve been able to play this long and have this much fun,” Iginla said.

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