As Mike Yeo said, “from top to bottom, a pretty solid effort” for the Wild on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.
Charlie Coyle assisted on three power-play goals by Christian Folin, Nino Niederreiter and Jonas Brodin, Erik Haula scored one goal, Jason Zucker scored an empty-netter and has two assists and Devan Dubnyk stopped 22 of 24 shots as the Wild beat the Blue Jackets, 5-2. All the Wild goal scorers were 24 and under, and best of all, all the Wild players who played tonight and will actually be on the team played real well.
The one bad news in the game is Justin Fontaine was hurt. Just 63 seconds into the game, David Clarkson floored him by extending his knee into Fontaine’s right leg. Fontaine was knocked to the ice, limped up and down the tunnel and remained in the game until he was hit again in the second period.
Yeo said he has a charley horse and a sore side, but he doesn’t think it’s serious. Yeo said they’ll probably keep him out of practice Friday and he wasn’t scheduled to play Saturday in Saskatoon anyway against the Oilers.
The game wasn’t on TV, so the NHL requested the video and got a referee’s report. It’ll determine Friday whether or not to discipline Clarkson, who got a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in a 2013 preseason game.
Check out my game notebook in Friday's paper, but in addition, I wrote an interesting feature on Ruslan Fedotenko's comeback attempt. You can read that here.
1. Coyle was real good. Skated assertively, created plays, had three shots and won 12 of 16 faceoffs. He was 59 percent in the Wild’s win two nights earlier at Winnipeg. Last year, he won 46.5 percent of his draws and he said he thought all summer about improving. He said it’s a mental thing, and last year, before each draw he’d think of three ways to win the faceoff but never picked one. Now he’s just going into the circle intent on winning it.
It’s uncertain yet what the Wild’s personnel will look like on the first and second unit to start the season, but Coyle’s play tonight will likely stick in Yeo’s head. Yeo talked last week that if he put Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu on the same unit, he may go with a winger to center the second unit. But after tonight’s game, Yeo said, “I don’t want to just give up faceoffs. Once we get to our full group, we’ll have a better idea how to assemble things. But I don’t want the second group to give up faceoffs and lose 20 seconds of power-play time.”
Coyle didn’t play a lot of power play last year, and he said, “when you get that opportunity, you have to make the best of it.”
2. Most impressive about the Wild’s power play tonight was the net-front. That’s how the Wild scored its goal against Buffalo on the power play and Yeo noted all three tonight were a direct result of net-front play. The Wild’s puck movement tonight was real good, too.
3. Zac Dalpe lost his mother, Lisa, to kidney cancer on Sept. 15. He went home for only a few days and tonight played in his first preseason game. He was outstanding.
Besides the fact that he elevated to center on the Thomas Vanek-Coyle line when Fontaine was lost (Coyle slid to right wing), he stood up for Gustav Olofsson and fought Rene Bourque when Bourque crunched the Wild’s defenseman from behind, he took shots, he skated real well and was always around the net.
“I liked his game all night. He’s true to his identity. He played hard both ends of ice,” Yeo said.
Dalpe said it’s been a tough week, but he’s trying to move on. He said tonight was a good first step, joking the 14:25 of ice time is the most he’s ever seen at this level. The 25-year-old Carolina second-rounder has played 117 NHL games and should see games for the Wild if the Wild needs a center.
He was real impressive tonight.
4. Tyler Graovac looked good again tonight offensively, on the wall and in the faceoff circle (7 of 10 after going 7 of 11 in Winnipeg). He just keeps getting better, and frankly, with Fontaine, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Carter now banged up, there could be some doors opening for guys. None of the injuries is considered serious, but the Wild won’t risk their health at this time of year.
5. Dubnyk felt it was a good start. He said he was drifting a little bit on the second goal, and he’s just trying to get a feel for it again. He only faced one shot in the first 12 minutes. He joked that since he didn’t get his pregame nap in (NHL teams fly in the day of preseason games), he got his nap in the first half of the first period.
6. Folin: 1 goal, 4 hits, solid defensively. Haula at one point was 0 for 5 in the circle. He finished 10 of 19. Niederreiter goal and assist.
Rachel's covering Friday's practice from a daily standpoint, although I'll be there working ahead. One of us will blog afterward. If you don't hear from me, seeya on Twitter, I'm sure, and from Saskatoon.