ST. LOUIS – Maybe tired of being badgered by everybody, Charlie Coyle has finally gotten it through his head to “SHOOT!!!”
The Wild first-line right wing, who forced overtime during the Wild’s 4-3 shootout loss Saturday against the Blues by scoring with 68 seconds left with an extra attacker on the ice, has 51 shots, second on the team behind linemate Eric Staal’s 60. In a positive trend, he has three or more shots in nine of the past 11 games and a team-high 13 of 21 games with at least three shots.
“I have had my coaches telling me, my teammates telling me, my dad telling me, everyone telling me, ‘You’ve got to shoot the puck more. Shoot the puck, shoot the puck, shoot the puck,’ ” Coyle said before Saturday’s game. “So I’ve just started shooting it from everywhere. I can’t look for the pretty play all the time.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau is especially pleased to hear this because he has been harping on his entire pass-happy team to shoot more often.
“We’re not like the ’72 Russians that need 18 shots to score four goals,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to shoot pucks and go to the net in this game. A stat I’d heard — it’s a couple years old now — is 75 percent of all goals are scored within 5 feet of the blue paint.
“So shoot the puck and go to the net.”
Coyle leads the Wild with eight goals and has three since the coaches tweaked the Wild’s forecheck three games ago.
At 24, Coyle is more confident with his status on the team. He’s part of the assembled “leadership group” and no longer feels he has to defer to veterans such as Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu — both on and off the ice.
“Now it comes more naturally to just play hockey,” Coyle said. “If you’re the guy with the best opportunity to shoot the puck and score, then do it. Zach and Eric tell me all the time, ‘Just shoot it. We’ll get the rebounds if it doesn’t go in.’
“A shot on net is never a bad thing. Get the shots up, you get the goals up and it’ll be better for our line.”
With defenseman Christian Folin out three to four weeks because of a sprained left MCL, Nate Prosser returned to the lineup.
This is Prosser’s chance to play regularly again. He had been scratched in eight of the past nine games, but the one game he did play was as a winger. He hadn’t played the blue line since Nov. 5.
“It was little awkward being up front,” said Prosser, “sitting on [the opposite] side of the bench, in warmups, just everything about it, different positions in the D-zone, different forecheck. It’s kind of trippy.”
Prosser, a righty, was removed from the lineup for two reasons: He was playing his off side for then-injured lefty Marco Scandella and the Wild hoped Mike Reilly would spark what at the time was a dormant power play. But now, Scandella’s back and, as Boudreau said, Jonas Brodin “is more than adequate on the power play.”
Assistant coach Scott Stevens said the Wild is comfortable with Prosser.
“He can miss eight games and come in and play so well,” Stevens said. “It’s hard to find those guys. Some guys lose their rhythm, it takes them a while to get into the games.”
Big loss in many ways
Folin is a significant loss because he’s one of the Wild’s few big-bodied, physical defensemen.
“It’s too bad. We’re going to miss him,” Brodin said. “He’s really strong and he plays hard, and I played with him since the start of the season, so of course I’m going to miss him.”