While injuries to Tyler Graovac and Justin Fontaine will give ample opportunity to Jordan Schroeder to stick in the Wild’s lineup for awhile, the Wild’s depth will be tested as coach Mike Yeo’s lineup options are starting to be inhibited.
Graovac, who aggravated a pre-training camp injury opening night Oct. 8, will miss six weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday in Philadelphia to repair his bilateral core muscle. Fontaine will miss four to six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“Knock on wood, luckily we’re pretty healthy everywhere else, but obviously those are a couple big injuries,” Yeo said. “Grao did a real good job out of training camp and that throws a wrinkle there.
“With Fonzie, I thought that line with him, Thomas [Vanek] and Charlie [Coyle], that was really starting to come along. They were creating a lot of offense for us and producing for us on a nightly basis pretty much. Injuries are a part of the game and we’re going to have to try to adjust and work around it.”
The hope, besides the Wild avoiding further injuries, is for the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line to heat up. Granlund and Pominville have no even-strength points in the past eight games, and Yeo doesn’t have many options when it comes to breaking up the line.
Yeo said he has considered altering that line, but with speed games coming up against Nashville and Tampa Bay, Yeo is anxious to see how that line, which is usually good in those type of games, plays. He basically said the line has generated a ton of chances in the first half of the past three games and they need to figure out a way to "stick with it" because the goals are bound to come if scoring chances like these continue.
I'll write more about this line, and especially Granlund and Pominville, in Thursday's paper. At least, that's the plan barring news.
The problem is the Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter, the top possession line in the NHL, is virtually untouchable.
One option would be to move Coyle from third-line center to right wing on the Granlund line and unite Pominville, who has no goals in 11 games, with Vanek, his former Buffalo linemate, on the third line.
But with Graovac hurt, Yeo doesn’t feel he can move Coyle out of the center position. If he moved Coyle out, he'd have to move Erik Haula to third-line center (maybe an eventual option with him playing better) and Ryan Carter to fourth-line center from right wing.
It hurts that center Zac Dalpe has missed all but one game this season for Iowa with a groin injury. Graovac and Dalpe were supposed to be the Wild’s center depth, and Coyle the Wild’s right wing depth.
“The more guys you have out, the less cards you have in the deck, the less things that you have at your disposal,” Yeo said.
What's a real concern is if more injuries occur. Frankly, Iowa is off to another mediocre start and there's not a lot of forward options down there. The Baby Wild has scored 18 goals in 11 games!
Fontaine’s injury occurred last Friday when he was struck with a knee-on-knee hit by Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins. The Blackhawks forward was not disciplined by the NHL because the league felt Fontaine left his leg in the line of contact when he tried to avoid the oncoming checker. The league didn’t feel Desjardins led with the knee or stuck it out to make contact, thus feeling it was an unfortunate but unintentional incident.
Schroeder, who scored three goals and five assists in 25 games last season, said, “It’s tough to see them down, but it opens up an opportunity for me. I just have to come in here with a good attitude and just work hard every single day.”
Yeo said the Wild needs Schroeder to step up after filling in admirably last season.
“It’s always, ‘What have you done for us lately?’” Yeo said. “That line [with Vanek and Coyle] is not a checking line. That is a line that we need him to create offense. For sure, they have to be reliable defensively, but they have to find a way to produce.
“He’ll get an opportunity, and we have confidence in him, but certainly he should try to recognize that and put everything he’s got into making the most of it.”
Talk to ya Wednesday. I'm taping a podcast with Jim Souhan later today that'll be up tonight at malepatternpodcasts.com. The next podcast taped at Tom Reid's will be Saturday at 4 p.m., so come by and listen.