SUNRISE, FLA. – Mike Yeo had to do something to shake up the lineup after the Wild scored four goals in three games on this road trip. Instead of calling up another forward for Saturday’s game at Florida, Yeo opted to mix up his first three lines.
Jason Pominville was reunited on the top line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu against the Panthers, while Matt Cooke was promoted from the third line to a new second line with Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter.
Struggling Dany Heatley was dropped to the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine after the second line failed to score in the first eight games.
“We need to try to find some offense here,” Yeo said before Saturday’s game. “We’ve got to try to get some more balance to our lineup. … This is our first real test. It’s a good opportunity for us to face a little adversity early and have to battle through it.”
The moves didn’t exactly have the desired effect as the Wild scored another one goal in a 2-1 shootout loss.
Heatley, who has no goals and two assists in nine games, played with Fontaine in training camp and had decent chemistry with Brodziak in parts of the past two seasons.
“It’s not the best start,” Heatley said Saturday morning. “There’s been some better games and some worse games through the first eight, but one point is not how I wanted to start. I’m just going to keep working and get out of this.”
Pominville has played well previously with Parise and Koivu, but Yeo moved him to the second line to provide offense elsewhere and “that didn’t really help.”
Cooke, a hard-nosed third-liner who entered Saturday tied with Koivu as the team’s leading scorer, said he wouldn’t change his game with the skilled Granlund and Niederreiter. Yeo said he was looking for more offense from both Granlund (four assists) and Niederreiter (four points).
A spot in Florida
It was a difficult offseason for Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert.
Not only was the Bloomington native bought out by the Wild because the team needed to free up salary-cap space, Gilbert had trouble latching on anywhere thanks to the cap dropping throughout the NHL.
“That was probably the most frustrating part of the summer,” said Gilbert, 30. “The way that the cap was set up and what teams were looking for, opportunities were really slim.
“There’s a lot of guys that can probably say that. There’s a lot of guys that still didn’t get contracts that played in the NHL. “For me, I was fortunate enough to find a spot here in Florida.”
Even that wasn’t easy.
Gilbert signed a pro tryout and had to earn his way onto the Panthers. He signed a one-year deal and has been on Florida’s top pair with Brian Campbell.
Gilbert had three goals, 15 assists and was a minus-16 last season in 63 games with the Wild.
He had a tough final year, and because the Wild wasn’t permitted to buy out Heatley because of season-ending shoulder surgery, Gilbert became a compliance buyout casualty.
“Unfortunately, it’s still a business,” Gilbert said. “You can kind of figure out where you stand, what the team needs to do to find room and space.
“It was unfortunate, but it’s one of those things you can’t control. It’s unfortunate how it ended.”
• Former Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard missed his third game in a row since being hit by a puck Monday in Buffalo. He tried to participate in Saturday’s morning skate but left “not feeling well.” Yeo said the Wild hasn’t classified it as a concussion.
• Forward Charlie Coyle missed his seventh game with a sprained right knee. Yeo says he’s “still a ways away.”
• Blaine’s Nick Bjugstad played his first game against his hometown Wild. Bjugstad began the game on a Panthers’ line with Jesse Winchester and Shawn Matthias.
• Former Wild and Panthers goalie Jose Theodore, a free agent, hasn’t called it quits. In fact, the resident of Boca Raton, Fla., contacted the Wild after Niklas Backstrom was injured Oct. 8. Backstrom only missed four games with a strained knee and has been the backup netminder the past two games.