As the Wild took the ice for Tuesday’s practice, Charlie Coyle wasn’t dressed in his usual style. Instead of putting on a yellow jersey — the one he should have worn to skate alongside Matt Cullen and Jordan Greenway — the Wild forward had pulled a black defenseman’s sweater over his head.
Coyle’s new look signified a new position on the Wild’s power play: patrolling the point with Jared Spurgeon. Heading into Wednesday’s playoff opener at Winnipeg, coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to find a place on the power play for the big winger and his scorching shot. With six forwards already locked into the two units, Boudreau decided to try Coyle at the point, where he has played occasionally but not recently.
The Wild spent much of Tuesday’s session at Xcel Energy Center working on its power play before flying to Canada. By the end, Coyle already was feeling more comfortable with the view from just inside the blue line.
“It’s a little different, I’ll give you that,” Coyle said. “But I like trying something new. It’s just getting used to it; that’s all it is, getting reps in. I haven’t gotten too many, so it was nice to get that [Tuesday].”
The power-play units in Tuesday’s practice put Eric Staal, Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter with Coyle and Spurgeon, and point men Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund. It is not certain that Spurgeon will play in Game 1. The defenseman said that although he feels good, he has not received medical clearance, and Boudreau reiterated that it will be a game-time decision.
Coyle is aiming to shoot more, and playing the point puts him in an ideal position to fire away.
“He’s a righthanded shot that we believe deserves to be on the power play,” Boudreau said. “We had to find a spot for him, because the other six spots were pretty well filled when Zach [Parise] got back. When he does shoot the puck, it’s extremely hard and extremely accurate.”
Marcus Foligno, who led the Wild this season with 72 penalty minutes, knows he will need to provide some muscle against the Jets’ big, physical lineup. In the playoffs, though, Foligno also understands he has to carefully choose his spots.
The forward is making his postseason debut, six years and 424 games after he began his NHL career. Foligno has been soliciting advice from experienced teammates such as Cullen and Staal about how to handle the increased intensity and pressure of the playoffs. They stressed the importance of keeping emotions in check, despite the added excitement.
“We know [the Jets] have a really good power play,” Foligno said. “So for myself, it’s not running out and doing something stupid on a hit. I have to make sure I’m physical in the right areas, and being strong in front of the net.”
Boudreau said the Wild has added enough size to handle the Jets’ physicality, but he also expects his players to show restraint.
“We’ve never been a team that hits a tremendous amount,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes when you’re too over-exuberant, you take yourself out of position when you want to be physical. We want to play the right way all the time, and if we do that, we’ll be happy.”
• The Wild will hold a Game 2 viewing party Friday at Xcel Energy Center. Gates 1 and 2 will open at 6 p.m., and the game starts at 6:30. Admission is free, though the team is encouraging fans to bring donations of food or money to benefit Second Harvest Heartland Food Shelf.
• The first four games of the Wild-Jets series will be televised locally on Fox Sports North, the team announced. Games 1 and 4 also will be broadcast on CNBC, and Games 2 and 3 will be shown on USA Network. All games will be streamed live on nbcsports.com.