To make Christoph Bertschy’s integration onto the Wild easier, team trainers gave the 21-year-old rookie injured Justin Fontaine’s locker-room stall, which was smack in between Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter.
Bertschy speaks Swiss-German. Niederreiter, who also hails from Switzerland, also speaks Swiss-German. And Vanek is from Austria, and while he speaks German differently, Bertschy said hours before his NHL debut Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning that he understands the veteran perfectly.
As Bertschy, tied for the points lead at AHL Iowa, came off the ice after his first morning skate, he removed his helmet and unveiled a giant mop of hair.
“His haircut is not typically Swiss,” Niederreiter wanted to make clear.
Bertschy got the call at 4 p.m. Friday, took a car service to the Twin Cities, called his family, watched TV shows on his iPad and arrived by 8:30 p.m.
Following Saturday's game Bertschy was sent back to Iowa. Be played eight minutes, recording a pair of shots and a hit.
“I’m pretty excited and obviously a little nervous,” Bertschy said before the game. “I didn’t expect [a call-up] this soon, so it was pretty shocking. I’ll try to do my best and not be too nervous.”
Bertschy was to begin Saturday’s game at right wing on a line with Vanek and Erik Haula.
“I’m a fast guy, speed player, bring energy, can finish checks,” the 5-foot-10 Bertschy said. “I’m small, but I’m still strong and battle hard defensively and skilled offensively.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo liked Bertschy’s training camp.
“I’ve been told that he’s doing a really good job down in Iowa and he’s been their best, most consistent player there,” Yeo said. “So he’s got skill, but what I do like is he’s a real competitive kid — that’s from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen so far.
“He’s obviously not a huge guy, but he plays bigger than his size, he’s willing to finish checks, and he’s willing to go to the hard areas and obviously he’s got an awful lot of speed.”
With Zach Parise sidelined, Yeo revamped his second, third and fourth lines. While Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Niederreiter remained together, Charlie Coyle moved from third-line center to second-line right wing with Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund, and Ryan Carter moved from right wing on the fourth line to center and played between Chris Porter and Jordan Schroeder.
“I think hopefully we get to a situation where we can just roll the lines and everyone is on top of their game and we don’t have to make a lot of switches,” Yeo said before Saturday’s game.
Haula has been relegated to the fourth line all season, so with Coyle now moved up, this is a great opportunity for Haula playing alongside Vanek.
“He’s earned it,” Yeo said. “I just want to make sure that he keeps doing the same things that he’s been doing. His game has been getting better as the season has gone on. I think that his speed has become more of a factor in his game and so I’m hoping that he’s ready for this.
“I think the thing that’s going to be real important is the line is going to have a bit of a different identity to it than what he’s been playing, but his game can’t change. He’s got to keep doing the things that he’s been doing to get his game to this level. And if he can do that, then he’ll be a good complement.”
What can you do?
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher didn’t seem overly rattled by Parise’s sprained knee ligament because he says he almost comes to expects injuries to every player.
“Every team has them, and the way the game is now, you almost have to assume every player’s going to miss 5-10 games over the course of a year, and hopefully this will be Zach’s turn and he’ll come back rested and healthy and ready to help us for the last 60-odd games for the year,” Fletcher said.