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Continued: Finns are guiding the way for Wild in playoffs

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 26, 2014 - 12:39 PM

The Avalanche has targeted Granlund all series. Whether it’s Colorado going out of its way to check him or giving him an extracurricular shove as Erik Johnson kept doing Thursday or cross-checking him to the ice ferociously the way Paul Stastny did Thursday, Granlund simply peels himself off the ice and continues to perform.

Granlund played pro hockey in Finland, leading his team to a title. He has played in world juniors, world championships and the Olympics. So he might be 22, but Yeo said, “He’s used to playing in these big moments. He’s been a guy counted on, and he’s been a guy that’s delivered.”

“He’s one of those guys you want to have on your side,” added Haula, who while playing for the University of Minnesota last year helped his countryman and pal, Granlund, get adjusted to Minnesota during his rookie year.

Moving up

Haula, 23, who scored his first career playoff goal in Game 1, began this series on the fourth line. He spent the final seven games of the regular season on the second line as Granlund recuperated from a concussion. Now he’s the mainstay of a young third line, taking struggling Kyle Brodziak’s spot and pivoting a line with 21-year-old Nino Niederreiter (who replaced the suspended Matt Cooke) and fellow rookie Justin Fontaine, 26.

“He keeps taking on a little bit more,” Yeo said of Haula.

Yeo wants the games of all his young players to look the same no matter what line they’re on or role they play.

“Two weeks ago, Haulzy was playing on our second line, and his game looked the same as it does right now,” said Yeo, adding that not only is Haula astute defensively on the checking line, but offensively he’s still first on pucks, using his speed, playing strong down low and creating plays.

The biggest similarity among Koivu, Granlund and Haula is how good they are defensively, which is the Wild’s bread and butter.

“That’s a Finnish thing,” Brunette said. “Defense is a priority and something they take a lot of pride in. That’s why the coaches trust them so much. They take care of their own end as much as they do the other.”

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