WINNIPEG – Mike Yeo made clear the past few days that he’s not unhappy with Nino Niederreiter’s game, yet the young forward has skated in a fourth-line role for much of the past few weeks.
“It’s a function of the way the pieces are fitting elsewhere right now and this is where he ends up falling,” the Wild coach said before Monday’s game against the Jets.
The wingers on the top three lines recently have been Zach Parise/Charlie Coyle, Matt Moulson/Jason Pominville, Matt Cooke/Justin Fontaine, so there’s not much ability for Niederreiter to move up.
“Of course it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, I want to be in the lineup,” Niederreiter said. “If this is what it takes, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. It’s a different game [on the fourth line]. Get pucks deep, be strong defensively. This is the game I have to play right now.
“The other lines are doing well. That’s the spot I’m in right now. I just have to take the positives out of it.”
In 19 games since returning from the Olympics, Niederreiter has two goals, three assists and 20 shots.
Still, Yeo said, “He’s been trying to play physical, finding ways to get hits in every game. There are challenges with him on that right side coming through the middle of the ice sometimes, but he’s getting better at it. Defensively, he’s been pretty darn responsible. He’s a big body, and he should be a tough guy to play against.
“We’ve seen him have success in more of a scoring role. Not unlike anybody that’s out of the lineup or whether he’s in the role he’s in right now, he’ got to make sure he’s on top of his game because there’s always opportunities [for an increased role].”
Yeo likes what he sees from 23-year-old defenseman Christian Folin, signed a week ago out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
“He looks like he can definitely be a player,” Yeo said.
Yeo said Folin, who isn’t playoff eligible, could “potentially” make his NHL debut before the regular season ends.
“It would be a great feeling. I can’t wait,” Folin said.
• When Parise assisted on two goals Saturday against Pittsburgh, he surpassed the 500-point mark. He and his father, J.P. Parise (594 points) became the third father-son pair in NHL history to score at least 500 points each, joining Gordie and Mark Howe, and Bobby and Brett Hull.