After a practice at St. Thomas Academy — one with high intensity and a lot of offensive work — Wild coach Mike Yeo was willing to talk about anything except lineups.
No decisions had been made for Saturday’s matinee in Colorado, he said, in different forms, more than a few times.
But it appears that forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard did enough in Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center to have a good chance of remaining on the ice.
After being a healthy scratch for three games, Bouchard got an assist and was a plus-one Thursday. And while he might have started stronger than he finished, Yeo had Bouchard skating in practice with center Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi, the line he skated on Thursday.
“It’s never an easy thing to be taken out of the lineup, especially a guy that’s had the success and the past he’s had and the ability he’s had,” Yeo said. “And he responded well.”
Still, with Jason Zucker ready to return to action, Bouchard faces a challenge to remain in the lineup and faces an uncertain future with the organization. And he knows it.
“This is a tough time,” Bouchard said. “It’s not a fun situation. But, overall, I’m staying positive. I’m working hard in practices. Whenever they want me in the lineup I’ll be ready.”
Bouchard was the first Wild skater on the ice Friday, and one of the last off.
Even at age 36, Cullen’s game is still speed-based. And, skating with Setoguchi has turned out to be a productive pairing for him.
Cullen has four assists in his past three games and eight assists in his past eight.
Setoguchi, meanwhile, has goals in consecutive games and has seven points in his past eight games.
“I work really hard at it,” Cullen said of his conditioning. “I pay attention to what I eat, I take care of myself, try to be professional with all that stuff. But I’m pretty blessed. Speed is one thing that, for me, has always been a strong part of my game.”
Cullen had two assists Thursday.
“Since our team started going like this,” Yeo said, raising his arm, “it’s no coincidence that his game has done that, too. He’s playing well in the offensive zone down low, he’s controlling pucks and he’s playing well defensively. He’s just playing a good game.”
• Judging from practice, Yeo could be leaning toward keeping the same lineup intact. The lines were the same, with Zucker getting some work on the fourth line. The defensive pairings remained the same as well, with Nate Prosser and Brett Clark making up the extra pairing.