Inactives become valued contributors for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2014 - 9:49 AM

Stephane Veilleux, Cody McCormick stepped up after being patient as scratches.


The Wild's Stephane Veilleux, right, celebrated his goal against Pittsburgh on Saturday. Cody McCormick, foreground, assisted on the goal.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Stephane Veilleux was sitting on the couch talking to his wife, Amy, late Saturday night about their European and minor league journey the past few years. The conversation took place not long after the 32-year-old left wing was a large contributor in the Wild’s shutout over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A week before, Veilleux was in the minors not knowing if he would return to the show after shuttling back and forth between Des Moines and St. Paul all season. A year before, Veilleux had no clue if he would ever play in the NHL again after spending all of last season, all of 2010-11 and much of 2011-12 in the minors.

“Sometimes in this game, things can change really fast,” said Veilleux, in his second stint with the Wild, with whom he ranks eighth all-time with 413 games played. “You always have to keep pushing and all of sudden I’m into a situation — again, I’m not taking anything for granted — where I’m in a playoff push.

“It feels really good to be part of this right now and hopefully more is coming. I’m really proud to be back. It comes with hard work and always believing in yourself. You take a step back and you think about all the traveling the last few years, the ups and downs and then you think you could be part of something great here. It’s great satisfaction.”

Cody McCormick, Veilleux’s fourth-line center against Pittsburgh, had a near identical retrospection Sunday morning. McCormick, after being scratched in five of the past seven games, assisted on Veilleux’s goal and scored a goal himself for his first two points with the Wild since being the “other guy” in the March 5 Matt Moulson acquisition from Buffalo.

The two games before, McCormick, 30, was in the press box. Exactly one month before, he played for the 30th-place Sabres and was staring at an early offseason. A year before, he, like Veilleux, was in the minors.

“You’re sitting there on the trade deadline watching [the TV coverage] and then get a call and go from 30th place to playoff contention. It’s a quick turnaround sometimes in this league,” McCormick said. “You want to be in the playoffs. You want to be in the NHL. That’s what you play the sport for.”

It’s these types of refreshing attitudes that earns the respect of Wild coach Mike Yeo, a former hard-nosed, heart-and-soul minor league player himself.

Being a fourth-liner isn’t the easiest hockey job around, but it’s an important one. It takes getting used to limited minutes but having to generate momentum by being physical, reliable defensively, occasionally dropping the gloves and sometimes finding yourself removed from the lineup.

The key, McCormick says, is not to pout when the latter happens.

“It’s not my first time having to be in the press box,” said McCormick, who spent parts of four seasons in Colorado and five seasons in Buffalo. “When you do have to take your turn there, you’re watching the game, watching everything to make sure you figure out the best way for you to contribute the next time.”

The Veilleux-McCormick-Nino Niederreiter line set an early tone against the Penguins. They were physical and suffocating on the forecheck. They brought energy, momentum and offense, starting with Veilleux chipping a puck in and forcing Brooks Orpik to hurry a pass so he wouldn’t get clobbered. That resulted in a turnover because of McCormick’s wall play. Veilleux worked his way back to the front of the net, McCormick found him and Veilleux scored.

“That’s the kind of workmanlike style of play we need from those guys,” Yeo said.

Later, McCormick stayed out for an extended shift and made it 4-0 on a setup from Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. Niederreiter, relegated to fourth-line duty because of depth at the wings on the top three lines, has added physicality, defense and offensive-zone time, Yeo said.

“What our line brings is a consistent forecheck, consistent energy,” McCormick said. “We don’t want to be outworked.”

Yeo was honest Sunday, however, and admitted that one reason he played McCormick is because in the previous two games against Chicago and Los Angeles, Parise, Niederreiter and Jason Pominville were all nailed up high by what the team deemed cheap shots.

McCormick has been in 56 fights and is the closest the Wild has to a deterrent with the team clearly not willing to play nightly scratch Mike Rupp, whose operated-on knees have slowed his skating.

“There has to be a mentality as a team that if somebody’s going to hit someone like Zach, whether that person knows that we’re there or whether their team knows that we might be able to do the same thing to some of their top guys, there has to be that element to your team,” Yeo said. “I don’t want anybody feeling comfortable going after our top guys. That should never happen.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Orlando 89
Indiana 109 FINAL
Detroit 119
Milwaukee 107 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Houston 117 FINAL
Memphis 111
San Antonio 90 FINAL
New Orleans 97
Charlotte 75 FINAL
Oklahoma City 98
LA Lakers 98 FINAL
Dallas 102
Minnesota 102 FINAL
Denver 106
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Portland 114
Phoenix 115 FINAL
Sacramento 106
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 1:10 PM
Miami-Florida 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question