Bruce Boudreau’s usually good for a fun line or two in his postgame pressers, and sometimes his stream of consciousness is better than his analysis.
Like the word “confidence,” one of the age-old, maybe overused words in sports is “chemistry.”
It’s hard to tangibly define both, and Boudreau made certain to point that out after Sunday’s win over Chicago when a reporter asked the coach if he was impressed with the fourth-line “chemistry” lately between Chris Stewart and Jordan Schroeder.
“I don’t know if impressed is the right word. I’m glad to see it’s working,” Boudreau said. “I really don’t even know what the word ‘chemistry’ means quite frankly in anything. You have people talk about it and go, ‘They have good chemistry.’
“I don’t know what the heck that is. They play well together.”
Whatever the reason, Boudreau’s glad to see the concoction working because he has long been a fan of rolling four lines.
The Wild opens a four-game homestand Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils as the Western Conference’s top team. It’s the latest the Wild has ever been atop the conference (previously the 33rd game of the 2011-12 season).
It’s coming off what even Boudreau worried would be a hellacious stretch on the road in San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Dallas and Chicago and at home against Montreal. Instead, the Wild captured 11 of 12 points.
Boudreau hopes to continue to give the Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Schroeder line plenty of ice time this week.
Stewart has scored seven of his nine goals in 20 games since Dec. 2. Schroeder has three goals and four assists in 10 games since his latest recall from Iowa. In back-to-back games in Dallas and Chicago, Schroeder teed up Stewart for goals with perfect passes.
“We’re feeding off each other,” Schroeder said when asked about their, uh, chemistry. “I think we’ve got a good mix of things going on and it’s working.”
In Sunday’s come-from-behind win, it was the fourth line that first created momentum on its first shift of the second period.
“I thought they were the best line — them and Mikko [Koivu’s] line,” Boudreau said. “They were going. When we’ve got four lines — even though we’d like to have all four lines going every night — if three of them are going, then we have a chance. … That is the great luxury of having a fourth line that can put the puck in the back of the net.”
Schroeder, 26, drafted in the first round by Vancouver in 2009, has played 292 games in the minors since his days at the University of Minnesota, only 119 in the NHL.
He has been largely a depth player with his hometown Wild. He has had to stomach constant call-ups and reassignments, five stints on waivers in the past two seasons and a harsh lesson last summer when he filed for arbitration and the team responded two weeks later by placing him on waivers.
But Schroeder says his work ethic has never wavered, which is why this recent success is so satisfying.
He has made a substantial impact, highlighted by two huge goals in two games against Montreal and setting up Jared Spurgeon’s overtime winner in Nashville after being elevated to the first line during the game.
He looks like a different player than his previous stints. He’s playing with the puck, moving his fast legs and driving the net rather than taking perimeter shots to the goalie’s short side.
“He was a first-rounder in this league for a reason,” Stewart said. “He’s finally getting an opportunity and a little bit of a longer leash to make some plays out there. He’s getting better every game.”
Schroeder says he isn’t worrying that any mistake will land him back in Iowa.
“You can’t think like that,” he said. “I’m getting some good breaks with points. That’s what you need sometimes in these situations. When you have some success and put up points, you’re going to be confident with the puck.”
• The Wild reassigned right winger Kurtis Gabriel to Iowa of the AHL. With five of the past six games on the road, he was called up to provide an extra body. He was scratched in the past four games.