The Wild was so soft on pucks last night, particularly in the offensive zone where it barely took any Anaheim might to knock Wild players off pucks, Brett Bulmer has been recalled from AHL Iowa.
Bulmer, 21, the first of the Wild’s three 2010 second-round picks, had three assists in nine games with the Wild in 2011-12 before being returned to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League. His development has been delayed since because of myriad injuries, including a couple knee injuries, but he has been healthy this season and by all accounts playing well for struggling Iowa.
He leads the Baby Wild with nine goals and 62 shots and is third with 12 points. He arrives in San Francisco around 3 p.m. (flying in from Vancouver; Iowa got trounced by Abbotsford last night and plays them again tonight) and is expected to play tonight against the San Jose Sharks.
Coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t divulge the lines just yet, but it’s very doubtful he breaks up the third line and he made it quite clear he is not yet ready to break up the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville line.
So it sounds like Bulmer will play the right side of the new 21-year-old line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. Jason Zucker will be scratched (more on all this below).
Same defense corps, meaning Nate Prosser will be scratched for the ninth straight game. Mike Rupp is also scratched.
Niklas Backstrom in goal. He is 1-8-1 all-time in San Jose with a 3.68 goals-against average, his second-worst goals-against in any arena (American Airlines Center in Dallas). The Wild is 1-7 in their past eight in San Jose and 2-10-1 in their past 13 here.
The Sharks are 0-3-1 in their past four and will start Antti Niemi tonight. Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley, traded for each other July 3, 2011, are expected to be on their team’s respective fourth lines tonight. Havlat has one year left on his contract. Heatley’s in the last year of his Wild career.
On the 6-2, 212-pound Bulmer, Yeo said, “I want to see what he can bring. We all do. One thing that’s been missing a little bit from some of these road games (5-7-3) is a big body along the wall, puck strength, a guy who brings a bit of an edge. These are all elements to his game when he’s on it.”
Why doesn’t Yeo put Pominville on the second line with Coyle and Bulmer and maybe Niederreiter on the first line?
“Of course there’s been talk, thought, but we kind of go through this every time that when things aren’t working out well enough with the second line, we break up the first line,” Yeo said. “We always do that. That’s always the first thing we go to and then next thing you know you’re kind of weakening your first line. Somebody has to step up. Somebody has to grab that opportunity. Not to say that we won’t go that way (Pominville to Line 2), but the message right now is we need somebody to step up. We can’t just fall back on going back to that. Those guys are doing their job, so somebody else has to step up.”
That is clearly aimed at Niederreiter (no goals and two assists in his past nine games) and Coyle (three goals and eight points this season).
Despite Iowa deploying the same system and the fact Zucker has played here for good chunks of two seasons, Zucker struggled in the neutral zone last night. He now has no points in his past 17 regular-season games.
On Zucker being scratched after being called up to play Anaheim, Yeo said, “I don’t know. There were some good moments. He got a couple shots on net. I don’t want to say he played poorly, but he didn’t demand a spot for himself in the lineup tonight, too. I don’t know if we’re always giving him the best chance, bouncing him in and out of the lineup like this, but at the same time I just want to see somebody come up and just really respect this opportunity and show that you’re not willing to let it slip.”
Yeo didn’t want to “beat up on Zuck,” but that “respect this opportunity” comment was an indictment.
Yeo said simply there’s been “too much where we don’t have the full roster, the full complement of players going out and performing shift after shift.”
He said the fact Anaheim was able to come with speed through the neutral zone time and time and time and time and time … and time again last night was because of “where we’re losing pucks, how we’re losing pucks, it’s making it extremely difficult to defend in those situations.”
He said there was too much watching and watching for somebody else, that they’re not a team that waits for somebody else to track and pressure puck carriers.
He said there was thought of scratching either Clayton Stoner or Keith Ballard after a tough game, but he doesn’t think any play they made or something they did cost the Wild in Anaheim.
Recently, in the second of back-to-backs, Yeo hasn’t even brought the team to the rink. Today, the entire team reported to SAP Center for a meeting. He said a lot of things were addressed in that meeting regarding areas the Wild must improve and “I’m anxious to see how we respond.”
Talk after the game.