The Wild bench was a mess during Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Arizona.
Erik Haula was injured two minutes into the game, so the Wild had to go with three centers playing on four lines the rest of the day. That meant Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal and Tyler Graovac played with literally every winger in the lineup.
At one point after a TV timeout reset things, coach Bruce Boudreau yelled to Graovac, “Grao, we’ve got three centermen, and we’re going to be rolling three.”
“It definitely was different,” said Koivu, who assisted on an empty-net goal by Staal, who tied Charlie Coyle for the team lead with 10 goals. “You don’t really know when to go and who you’re going with, so the rhythm is tough to find. Stuff like that happens. You just have to go with it.”
Boudreau normally calls only the center’s name, and the wingers on that line know they’re up next. Throughout Saturday’s game, Boudreau had to call three forwards for every line change.
Graovac started by moving between Nino Niederreiter and Coyle, but every time Koivu or Staal took a turn between fourth-liners Chris Stewart and Teemu Pulkkinen, Graovac got to pivot the first and second lines. He logged a career-high 18 minutes, 45 seconds and scored his third goal of the season, which amounted to his first career game-winner.
“I wanted to give Grao as much ice time as I could get him because he hasn’t had a lot of ice time in recent games,” Boudreau said. “And I thought he came through pretty well.”
Stewart said it was fun getting turns with Koivu and Staal, saying: “Pretty good centermen, so you can’t even complain about it. It was good to see that no matter who you were playing with the chemistry was there.”
Haula suffered a lower-body injury. Boudreau didn’t have an update afterward, saying that will come Monday after practice. If Haula’s unable to play Tuesday against Colorado, Zac Dalpe, who missed 21 games because of a torn meniscus, has been cleared to return.
Dalpe was reassigned to the AHL’s Iowa Wild and could play Sunday against the Manitoba Moose, then be recalled.
The Wild has won seven games in a row for the fourth time and first time since March 2013. Its longest win streak is nine from March 8-24, 2007.
In Boudreau’s coaching career with Washington and Anaheim, he has had 14-, 11- and 10-game win streaks and multiple nine-, eight- and seven-game win streaks.
“I’ve had good teams,” Boudreau said. “They get on a roll and keep going, and this is no different, I think this is a good team. We’ve been playing pretty well defensively. You’re in the game and there’s always a chance you can win.”
Some teams try to avoid talking about streaks, but defenseman Ryan Suter said: “Bruce always talks about it, so it’s hard to ignore it. It’s something neat that we’ve got going, and we’ve got to continue to ride the wave as long as we can.”
• Suter was plus-3 and leads the NHL with a plus-22. He has two minus games in the past 24. Nine of the top-35 plus-minus players in the NHL are from the Wild, the best defensive team in the league. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Suter said. “That stat, it’s great when you’re up, and when you’re down it’s [not].”
• Pulkkinen played instead of Kurtis Gabriel, but he was reassigned after a 15-shift game.