NASHVILLE – Despite not playing for two weeks, despite not arriving in Nashville until Thursday morning because of a flight cancellation, despite staying at Bridgestone Arena until the early afternoon for a systems tutorial with assistant coach Darryl Sydor, Sean Bergenheim made his Wild debut Thursday night against the Predators.
The winger, fetched from the Panthers for a third-round pick two days earlier, wasn't eased in. He was immediately put into a position to succeed in a top-6 role with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek.
"At some point we have to make sure that we're trying to play him into shape here, so we might as well throw him right into the fire," coach Mike Yeo said before Thursday's game. "I don't think it's fair for us to expect or demand perfection right from the start. New system, new players. There will be a lot of changes, but he should be able to provide some energy for us."
Bergenheim, 31, has only played in 40 games this season and hadn't played since Feb. 12 — coincidentally at Minnesota — so he spent the past several weeks working hard off the ice while the Panthers scratched him.
He might be only 5-feet-10, but his strength is evident. It helps him play a hard-forechecking game where he hounds pucks and battles in dirty areas.
"I'm in good shape," he said. "I've been training hard. I don't feel like I haven't played in two weeks. I feel good. That's all that matters."
Bergenheim's arrival triggered four new lines. Yeo reunited Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville; and Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Jordan Schroeder. Justin Fontaine, who had three goals and three assists in the previous six games, moved to the fourth line as Erik Haula moved to left wing and Kyle Brodziak to center. Stephane Veilleux, who scored the winning goal two games earlier against Dallas, was scratched.
"Obviously when you have a change to your lineup like this, it's going to affect a lot of things," Yeo said. "We tried to look at a lot of different scenarios, and first off putting a couple lines together that have had chemistry in the past [with the Granlund and Coyle lines].
"Thomas, his game lately, he's involved in probably six to eight scoring chances every game, so we think the way that Mikko's been playing, that line has the ability to create. We'll see how it works at."
Since Devan Dubnyk was traded to Minnesota on Jan. 14, his 2013-14 turmoil with Edmonton and Montreal and 2014-15 resurgence in Arizona has been widely reported. His two-game stint in Nashville has not been.
He started two games, allowing nine goals on 60 shots. He never played for the Predators again.
"My confidence wasn't overly high at the time of the trade [from Edmonton]," Dubnyk said. "I was pretty nervous. When I came to Nashville, I think I put way too much pressure on myself. You just can't perform that way."
"Carter Hutton was lights out. He earned every start he got. … How well he was playing, you just try to wait for your turn and unfortunately it didn't come. [Pekka Rinne] came back after the Olympic break [from a hip infection] and I was the odd man out."
Taking his lumps
Parise was bound to be motivated Thursday. He was coming off a night where he managed to lose three mini-stick knee hockey games at former Wild center Matt Cullen's Brentwood home.
"His kids [Brooks, Wyatt and Joey] picked the teams for every game, and I happened to be on the losing one every time," Parise said, laughing. "But it was a blast. Just awesome. What a great family."