With Alex Tuch back in Iowa, the Minnesota Wild’s lines at Friday’s morning skate looked fairly familiar as the team prepared for tonight’s game with Tampa Bay at Xcel Energy Center:
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Jordan Schroeder
Youngblood here covering today for Russo, who has the day to work on Sunday stuff, run some errands and make American coffee great again.
The biggest news here is that Coyle Is back at right wing on the team’s top line after two strong games at center. Coyle had four assists and was a plus-2 in games against Winnipeg and Chicago.
According to Coyle, the move to center helped jump-start his game.
“You have to be more engaged defensively,’’ he said. “You have responsibilities down low, so you’re automatically engaged. You have to win battles down low and you have to play physical, and that got me in the game early. I have to move my feel a little more going up the middle, instead of being up against the wall making outlet passes or whatever. So I just got my feet moving.’’
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau saw the same thing.
“I though the last two games he’s skated really well,’’ Boudreau said. “He has handled the puck well. We hope that continues that tonight. I just like him when he’s skating and when he’s active. When he’s doing that and he’s handling the puck, he’s a good player.’’
Was the temporary move to center the catalyst?
“Sometimes a big guy just needs to skate more,’’ Boudreau said. “And at center you have to skate, and you have to think. You’re in the middle and you’re moving.’’
Mikko Koivu said his article in the Players’ Tribune about his time with the Wild and affection for Minnesota has generated a lot of response.
“Actually I was surprised,’’ Koivu said of the response. “It’s been all positive. You don’t get it too often. Usually it’s just about the game, or about the next game. It’s been good to hear that from people that read it.’’
In the article Koivu reminisces about being drafted, his early days with the team, becoming a captain and falling in love with Minnesota. He did much of the work on the article during the Wild’s recently-concluded road trip.
Nice to see Ryan Carter back on the ice with the Wild today. Russo had the scoop yesterday. Carter, four months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, will be skating with the Wild for the rest of this month, hoping to earn a spot on the roster. I’ll get into it more in tomorrow’s notebook, but Carter talked today about how much he’s missed the game and how difficult it was to contemplate the possibility that his career could be over.
“When I think about myself, I’ve always believed in my ability to compete,’’ Carter said. “It’s a matter of being able to compete and do well at it. That’s what’s going to have to come, and we’ll see.’’