About two weeks ago, Wild forward Charlie Coyle was thinking about how fortunate he had been recently since pucks and sticks had avoided his face.
“All of a sudden, two games later, ‘boom,’ ” Coyle said. “And then again. It’s funny how it works. Sometimes you’re lucky; sometimes you’re not.”
Coyle’s mouth is more than enough evidence to qualify him for the latter distinction.
After a puck caught him up high Feb. 13 against the Rangers, putting a gash under his lip that required seven or eight stitches to close, the cut opened the next game after a stick rubbed it.
“I had to get it restitched,” he said.
Once those stiches were removed, it wasn’t long before Coyle sported another smattering. Late in Thursday’s game against the Coyotes, a shot from teammate Jason Zucker got deflected by a stick and up near Coyle’s mouth. He figures it’s probably the worst hit he’s taken to the face, with about 10 stitches still zigzagging by his upper lip.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Comes with the territory.”
The cages players wear when they’re younger help protect against these kind of injuries early in their careers, but eventually they’re exposed and vulnerable.
And yet they still battle the same.
“I think you see other people before you and other people play, and they play through whatever and get hit and go right back out,” Coyle said. “That’s just what you do now. You don’t want to be the guy to not do that. Everyone before sets the bar, and your legs are still moving so you go out and play. I think that’s what every guy does.”
On the rise
Half of captain Mikko Koivu’s goal production has come in the past month, an encouraging development for the center and the Wild.
Since Feb. 6, Koivu scored six times in 13 games — including once in each of the three games leading up to Sunday. He had six goals in the previous 52 games. This jump puts Koivu on pace for 15 goals, just three shy of the 18 he amassed in 2016-17.
“He’s starting to feel it a little bit,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s getting a little more comfortable with Zach [Parise], I think, on the wing. They’re getting a little bit of chemistry.”
Who has filled out that line on the right side has fluctuated, usually between Coyle and Nino Niederreiter of late. Niederreiter was back with Koivu and Parise on Sunday, as he continues to search for a rhythm after missing stretches of the season with injury.
“That’s hockey players,” Boudreau said. “There’s not a guy in there that’s not playing with a little bruise somewhere. The more it goes down the stretch, the play comes with more pain. To succeed here, you gotta pay the price and a lot of times that price is being sore or recovering. Yeah, his leg hurts him every now and again. But in Arizona he was skating great.”
Prosser back in
Defenseman Nate Prosser was back in the lineup Sunday after sitting one out Friday for the first time since the Wild claimed him off waivers Nov. 30 — a span of 39 games.
The decision to scratch Prosser stemmed from a host of factors; the team was finishing off a back-to-back against a speedy Avalanche team, and Boudreau felt it would benefit Prosser to take a break. Gustav Olofsson, who subbed in for Prosser, also previously lived in Colorado. That was Olofsson’s first game after being idle for five, but he was out against the Red Wings.
Winger Marcus Foligno was the Wild’s other healthy scratch.