Let's start with the latest from the Wild infirmary. Center Erik Haula skated in Wednesday's practice and said he has recovered from the charley horse he got in Sunday's victory over Winnipeg, clearing the way for him to play Thursday in Philadelphia. Defenseman Jonas Brodin is still on the shelf, though.
Coach Mike Yeo said Brodin--who is believed to have mumps--still is experiencing some symptoms, and Yeo doesn't want to risk infecting any other players. He left open the possibility that Brodin could join the trip when it moves on to games at Tampa Bay on Saturday and at Florida on Monday. But halting the spread of the illness is the top priority.
"If it's one, two, three games that we have to keep him away and make sure nobody else gets this, and make sure we completely get rid of it, then that's what we'll do,'' Yeo said. "We can't wait to get him back. He's such a huge part of our team. But that said, let's just make sure we end this (wave of illness) for good. Once he's symptom-free, we'll get him back with the group.''
Yeo decided to make an intriguing change in his forward corps. In Wednesday's practice, Charlie Coyle centered the third line, with Thomas Vanek on his left and Jason Zucker on his right.
Yeo hesitated to characterize his lines as a clear-cut first, second and third. The Vanek-Coyle-Zucker combo, he said, will not be expected to handle the usual third-line duties of shutting down opponents. He was looking for combinations that would give the Wild three scoring lines, and he also wanted to put Coyle in a spot that would maximize his abilities and give him a little more stability in the lineup.
The top three lines during Thursday's practice were Parise-Koivu-Pominville, Niederreiter-Granlund-Fontaine and Vanek-Coyle-Zucker. Yeo stressed that those combinations might last for one period or five games. The bottom line is that he likes the flexibility of his current roster, and he wants to experiment.
"(The Coyle line) have to be good checkers,'' Yeo said. "They have to be strong defensively. But obviously, we want that line to go out and create offense for us. We want three lines we can really count on to go out and bring offense to us, and we think that gives us the opportunity. We like the idea of (Coyle's) speed and skill with Thomas, and we wanted an offensive dynamic.
"We've never really given (Coyle) a chance to get settled. It seems like whenever we're moving Charlie, it's not because his game's not good enough. It's because we have to get somebody else going, or we have to give somebody else an element we thought they needed. You look at what he was able to do for (Mikael Granlund's) game a couple of games ago. He really helped (Granlund) get going again. So I think it's time for us to focus on Charlie a little bit here and give him a chance to get settled.''