PITTSBURGH – Mike Yeo had two public votes of confidence recently from Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and, Tuesday morning, the under-the-gun Wild coach got one from maybe the sport’s greatest player.
Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins star, knows Yeo, a Penguins assistant from 2006-10, is feeling the heat. Crosby saw last week’s video of Yeo storming off the ice during practice.
“With Yeozie, I know being a head coach, it’s added responsibility, but when you go through times like this, he’s a pretty strong-willed guy,” Crosby said. “That fire, that passion, there’s nothing wrong with that and it’s why we liked him so much.
“I’m sure their guys understand he has high expectations of himself and the team, and I don’t think it was meant to embarrass anybody.
“He’s just trying to get his team going and sometimes as players, you need a little kick.”
Crosby recalled tough times when Yeo was an assistant to first Michel Therrien, then Dan Bylsma.
“That’s when you’d really see his impact,” Crosby said of Yeo. “He’d be the guy talking to us and trying to be positive or he’d be the guy who’d have a face-to-face and say, ‘You’ve got to be better.’ He was an easy guy to talk to because he had the right amount of intensity, but if you needed to chat, he could chat, too.
“They’re going through a tough time. It’s not the time to beat around the bush and sugarcoat stuff. Sometimes you just have to be told how it is. It doesn’t always feel good at the time, but at least it’s the truth.”
For Yeo’s sake, Crosby is rooting for the Wild to get out of its funk.
“They’ve got a good team,” he said. “We all go through that where it doesn’t matter what you do, it seems like the puck’s in your net. It’s just a matter of fighting to get out of it. But Mike is always good in those situations.”
In 2002-03, Crosby, who hailed from Nova Scotia, attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault as a 15-year-old. J.P. Parise, who passed away last Wednesday, was director of hockey operations there and kept a watchful eye on the teenager, who scored 72 goals and 162 points in 57 games.
“With J.P. and [wife] Donna, the whole Parise family was great to me,” Crosby said. He added with a big smile, “Every free weekend, I was away from home, so it was nice J.P. would bring me over to their house and I’d have a home-cooked meal and listen to J.P. tell stories. He just loved the game so much.
“Anytime he was around, there was a certain amount of energy that he brought. He’s a special guy.”
Crosby sent J.P.’s son, Wild forward Zach Parise, a text last week expressing his condolences.
“I just wanted him to know his dad had a huge influence on a lot of us, and Zach’s the best guy to know that because it’s his dad,” Crosby said. “I just feel bad for him. I can’t imagine how tough it’s been for him.”
• Defenseman Jon Blum and winger Jordan Schroeder were scratched. The speedy Schroeder impressed last week with seven shots against Chicago, playing a second consecutive game for Justin Fontaine. So Yeo was asked Tuesday morning why Schroeder was sitting? “If we come in here thinking we’re just going to go out and trade chance for chance [with the Penguins] … we’re going to get killed,” Yeo said. “So we’re going with guys who understand the system, guys who have the ability to play well defensively and give them a chance to respond.”
• Defenseman Marco Scandella (upper body) and goalie Darcy Kuemper (lower body) were expected to skate Tuesday in Minnesota. The hope is they can rejoin the team for Saturday’s morning skate.
• Defenseman Justin Falk was injured in the first period during a battle with Zach Sill prior to Marcel Goc’s goal.