CHICAGO – A year ago, Charlie Coyle was busy leading Saint John to a Quebec League championship a few months after playing for Boston University.
Tuesday night, the 21-year-old Wild right winger made his Stanley Cup playoff debut at the United Center.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Coyle said. “Everything comes so fast it seems like. Just last year I was in college and in juniors. This is where I always dreamed of playing, right here, playing for a Stanley Cup with this team.”
Coyle was one of nine Wild players to make their playoff debuts against the Chicago Blackhawks. The others were Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert, Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and rookies Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin.
By comparison, backup goalie Henrik Karlsson was the only Blackhawk to dress for his first playoff game. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville coached his 140th playoff game. Wild coach Mike Yeo? His first, although he won a Stanley Cup as a Pittsburgh Penguins assistant.
Brodin, 19, has played big games before. He won a Swedish Elite League title with Farjestad and was a mainstay for Sweden when it won gold at the world junior championships in 2012.
“This is another step up,” Brodin said.
Brodin, a contender for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), has played large minutes alongside Ryan Suter on the Wild’s top pair all season long, and that won’t change this postseason.
Just how many minutes Brodin and Suter play will depend, but part of the reason the Wild recalled Scandella (Spurgeon’s defense partner when the Houston Aeros went to the Calder Cup Finals in 2011) was to eat minutes to ease the load on Brodin and Suter, Yeo said.
“Nice player,” Quenneville said of Brodin. “Got to commend him on establishing himself right off the bat, playing meaningful minutes against top players. He’s got a real good feel for the game.”
Zucker also was excited to play Tuesday. After a sub-par call-up late in the season, he was recalled for the regular-season finale and looked good against Colorado.
“It’s been a learning curve for me,” Zucker said. “I’m trying to figure stuff out and trying to figure out the whole pro game. Obviously I haven’t figured it out completely, but I’m trying to work on that and a lot of guys in here are helping me.”
The Wild expected Jason Pominville to return for Game 1 after missing the past two games because of a head injury, but he didn’t feel right when he woke up Tuesday and missed the game.
“Just not quite ready,” Yeo said. “This is a big game, but you’ve got to look at the big picture, and we have to make sure that when we get him back in, we get him back in for good.”
With Pominville out, Clutterbuck played on the third line with Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Zenon Konopka, slated to be scratched, centered Mike Rupp and Torrey Mitchell.
Bruno the scout
Andrew Brunette, who played last season for the Blackhawks, has done a little pre-scouting on Chicago for the coaching staff.
“These days, everything’s on video though, so they’re prepared,” said Brunette, the Wild’s hockey operations advisor.
Brunette has a lot of friends on Chicago, including Quenneville, so the series is awkward.
“Obviously my loyalty is Minnesota, but of all the teams I didn’t want us to play in the first round, it’s them. I rather it was anybody else,” Brunette said.
• Now that Belleville was eliminated from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, Wild draft pick Tyler Graovac will join the Aeros for the Calder Cup playoffs.
• Brian Rolston, a three-time 30-goal scorer for the Wild, retired after 17 seasons. Rolston, 40, scored 342 goals and 761 points in 1,256 career games. He played for the New York Islanders and Boston last season.