For the first time in a long while, a Wild practice was uneventful.
There were no new injuries, no forwards playing defense and no lineup changes from master shuffler Bruce Boudreau.
In the red sweaters was the Eric Staal line with, shockingly, the same wingers that started and finished Tuesday’s game against San Jose. Same thing for Mikko Koivu’s line in gray, Martin Hanzal’s line in yellow, Erik Haula’s line in white.
Consistency and tranquillity … for a welcomed change.
“It was an anomaly,” deadpanned the Wild coach.
This is what typically happens after a victory. And one day after the Wild’s second win in nine games, Boudreau kept everything status quo for Thursday’s game against Philadelphia.
“Obviously success will be the difference of whether they stay the same or they don’t,” Boudreau said. “That’s’ why Mikko’s line has been the same since November. They’ve had success, and they found a chemistry.”
With 10 games left in the season, Boudreau would love to settle on four forward lines and six defensemen. But with the Wild struggling, a bunch of illnesses and recently acquired forwards Hanzal and Ryan White integrating into the lineup, Boudreau has scrambled forwards like a cook at Mickey’s Diner scrambles eggs.
Forwards have switched lines and even positions. For instance, Boudreau has determined that perhaps Charlie Coyle is better suited at left wing and Zach Parise at right wing with Staal in the middle. Not only is that each forward’s off wing, Coyle and Parise rarely have played that respective side in their careers.
“I don’t want to mishmash them at all if we can help it,” Boudreau said. “Three games ago we figured out Charlie could play left wing and Zach could play right wing after 69 games. Who was going to play with [Hanzal]? There were a lot of things that we had to uncover.”
Players were excited to see everything stay the same. It helped that Parise and Coyle played their best games in a long time with Staal, and that Hanzal played another solid game, this time on a newly-created line with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.
“He was strong in all areas last night,” Boudreau said of Hanzal, especially when it came to outmuscling players along the boards. “Sometimes you think he’s really slow, but he’s always in the right position.”
Parise had two assists and was strong on the forecheck. Coyle, who had been snakebit for two months, scored his second goal in two games.
“It’s nice to contribute,” Coyle said. “I just have to keep playing my game. That’s it. If they go in, they go in. I just have to keep playing the way I know how — play physical, move my feet, be a big body out there.”
Haula has been relegated to the fourth line, but Boudreau said there will be times in games where Haula is elevated, even moving up to left wing just to get him more ice time.
Speedy Jordan Schroeder also is trying to take advantage of opportunity with White ill and out of the lineup.
“His skating can bring energy to the rest of the group,” Boudreau said. “That’s what it does on many occasions. I’m not asking him to be physical. Sometimes you have to get in the other guy’s way and you have to win the battle on the boards. No matter how big the guy is, you’ve got to want it more than him. And he’s done that.
“He’s done a good job when he comes in for us. It’s unfortunate for him that sometimes he plays a good game and then next thing you know he’s sitting four or five, but credit to him for having the great attitude and then coming in that next night and doing his job.”
Schroeder admits that’s frustrating, and he’s trying to up the aggressiveness to show Boudreau.
“I just want to bring that energy, finish hits, try to provide a spark and any offense that we can,” Schroeder said.
The Wild spent the first three weeks of March hopping in and out of town. It’s nice to actually be at home for six days and get in a few practices, Boudreau said.
“It’s different,” Boudreau said. “It seems like we’ve been everywhere else but here. And to wake up in your own bed and get to practice at the same time is different, but it’s a good different.”