Desperate for offense after the Wild scored a total of four goals in Games 1 through 3, coach Mike Yeo scrambled three of his four lines heading into Thursday night’s 4-3, season-ending Game 4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Asked how he came up with the Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter-Kyle Brodziak-Thomas Vanek and Matt Cooke-Erik Haula-Jordan Schroeder lines, Yeo joked: “Dice, bingo balls. Obviously, you’ve got to make some changes.”
The big move was moving Coyle from center, where he had played for the past three months, back to right wing. One reason Yeo admitted was because Coyle lost all seven of his faceoff tries in Game 3.
Coyle thought the move would help get him more in on the forecheck and be part of the offensive attack.
Vanek, who finished with no goals in the playoffs, was coming off a poor Game 3 in which he continually stopped short inside the blue line, curled and turned pucks over.
Yeo explained Vanek’s new line by offering not-so-subtle criticism of Vanek’s game.
“Giving Thomas two bigger bodies, two guys that should be capable of playing down low in the offensive zone, should be capable of moving for him, buying a little ice for him, getting to the net,” Yeo said. “And also having the work ethic to hound and recover pucks. I’d like to see that line be effective below the top of the circles.
“[The Blackhawks are] not a team that has given us a lot of free ice from the top of the circles out.”
On his 29th birthday, defenseman Nate Prosser played his first game of the playoffs. Jordan Leopold was scratched.
“I just want to bring my battle level first and foremost and make sure my intensity is at the highest it can be from shift one all the way through the rest of the game,” Prosser said.
Stewart still out
Right wing Chris Stewart, who injured his right arm in Game 2, missed his second game in a row. He tried to test his injury during Thursday’s morning skate but lasted only a few minutes.
“I wasn’t real hopeful he’d be able to play anyway,” Yeo said.
Right wing Justin Fontaine (groin) took part in Thursday’s skate but didn’t play.
Lucia returns to school
Mario Lucia, a 2011 second-round pick, explained Thursday why he has decided to return for his senior season at Notre Dame rather than sign with the Wild.
“That was where my heart was at,” said Lucia, the son of Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia. “I feel like I have a lot of hard work to do before I’m ready to play professionally. I still have an opportunity to get better here and I want to have an opportunity to help my team win a championship and I want to enjoy one more year of hockey and playing the game you love before it becomes your job.”
The Wild maintains Lucia’s rights and he said he has no plans to pursue free agency next summer.
“It’s my hometown team, and if I want to play in the NHL, I want to play with the Wild, for sure,” Lucia said.
Reveling in Rosario
Sitting in seats right behind the jubilant family of Eddie Rosario at Wednesday’s 13-0 Twins victory over Oakland at Target Field were NBC broadcasters Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk. They got to witness his family’s reaction when Rosario homered on his first major league pitch.
“When the kid came up to bat, I didn’t understand the family was related to him,” said Emrick, in town to call Thursday night’s Game 4 on NBC Sports Network. “I thought it was just some enthusiastic fans.
“Eddie had bought Swirl ice cream for all of us and I was busy working on that. As soon as the kid rounded the bases, I finally realized who they were. They all had their cellphones out taking video and the impressive one was right in front of me because she didn’t waver. She’s jumping up and down, but she held a still shot. I think it was his sister. It was very exciting to see their thrill and also fun to see one of the rare occurrences in the history of baseball.”
• Like many fans, Wild owner Craig Leipold isn’t a fan of the 8:30 p.m. starts that only Central time zone teams have been stuck with for a second consecutive postseason. He says he plans to talk to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about it after the season. “I hate 8:30 games, I hate them with a passion, our players hate them, hockey ops hate them,” Leipold said. “It doesn’t do anything for us, but it does a lot for the NHL. They want to get as many games as they can on NBC.”
• Chicago veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival appeared to suffer a serious left ankle injury when he tripped and fell in the second period.