DALLAS – The trade-deadline move to add two forwards brought more depth to the Wild, and with that comes lineup decisions for coach Mike Yeo.
In Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick’s first game on Saturday night against the Stars, Moulson skated with captain Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle, and veteran goal-scorer Dany Heatley was dropped to the fourth line with young speedy center Erik Haula and the gritty McCormick.
Justin Fontaine, tied with Heatley for third on the Wild with 12 goals, was scratched.
“I’m not disappointed with Fonzy, but truth be told, Heater’s outperformed him in this last little bit,” Yeo said.
Heatley, 33, who has 372 career goals, has played much better the past several weeks. But Moulson, a three-time 30-goal scorer, was acquired to make the Wild’s top six more of a threat and Heatley is taking the demotion maturely.
“You’re never happy [about being on the fourth line], but at the same time, we’ve got four good lines right now,” Heatley said Saturday morning. “It’s the time of the year where it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to win games.”
Yeo likes the physical element McCormick should bring to the Wild’s lineup, and he wants to give him a string of games so he gets familiar with the Wild’s system and his linemates.
“Cody brings a different element to that line,” Yeo said. “He’s going to be a hard-nosed, physical presence. We’ve got speed in the middle with [Haula]. We’ve got a guy who’s able to make plays and put the puck in the net with [Heatley]. All those guys are going to have important roles.”
One thing that has hurt Fontaine is with the added depth, he doesn’t have a special teams role. Besides playing 5-on-5, Haula and McCormick are on the penalty kill and Heatley’s on the power play.
“It’s a tough thing, but you’ve got to look at how much depth we’ve gained,” Fontaine said. “You’ve got to pay your dues, wait for your opportunity and stay sharp. It’s just how it works. It’s my first year.”
Prosser is odd D-man out
For two months, Nate Prosser, scratched from Nov. 27 to Dec. 22, filled in admirably as the Wild seemed to lose one defenseman at a time — in a row, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.
In the past 19 games in particular, Prosser was plus-9, including consecutive winning goals. But with seven healthy blue-liners again, Prosser found himself scratched against Dallas on Saturday. This came one game after Stoner was chosen to sit against Calgary.
“We’ve got seven guys who are healthy and who are playing well,” Yeo said. “I don’t want to just get in a situation where we just scratch one guy repeatedly. We [may] have to rotate things a little bit here. We have a lot of games coming up in a not a lot of time, so we’re going to need everybody healthy. We’re going to need everybody on top of our game.”
Yeo said there’s a “good chance” Prosser returns to the lineup Sunday against St. Louis.
Modano tips hat to Minnesota
Mike Modano, the No. 1 pick in the 1988 draft by the North Stars and the leader in virtually every category in North Stars/Stars history, had his No. 9 retired by the franchise during a touching ceremony before Saturday’s Wild-Stars game.
The evening began with a center-ice curtain dropping to reveal a reunion of the 1999 Stanley Cup-winning Stars team, including Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor.
Modano began a 20-minute speech by acknowledging the hockey fans in Minnesota, who taught him about “passion and love for the game.”
“I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “It was a privilege to wear that North Stars sweater.”
One of the most moving moments came when Modano fought back tears talking about Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, who recruited Modano to play junior hockey in Prince Albert and coached him in Minnesota and Dallas.
“I wouldn’t be here without him,” Modano said.