ST. LOUIS – Mike Yeo has a lot bigger concerns on his hand than trying to pencil in someone as the fourth-line left wing.
Trying to win Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the St. Louis Blues would be a good start.
After all, of the eight playoff series the Wild has played in its history, the team has lost Game 1 in the past seven. In fact, it has fallen behind 0-2 in the past three series and is 2-8 all-time when Games 1 and 2 of a series are on the road.
But here the Wild coach was yet again Wednesday trying to figure out which of the Wild’s extra forwards would play alongside Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine on Thursday. The only thing that’s sure unless Yeo was doing a little playoff gamesmanship is Matt Cooke won’t play.
Cooke practiced Wednesday, but Yeo said he’s not ready and is a possibility for Game 2.
For Yeo to give Sean Bergenheim a try over Ryan Carter could mean Yeo is intrigued by Bergenheim’s history. Acquired in February, Bergenheim has 12 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games for Tampa Bay and Florida.
“I think it’s been the most fun I’ve had playing ice hockey,” Bergenheim said. “It is the playoffs. I enjoy it, for sure. I think I’ve had success before, and partly it is because of the style I play.”
Still, Yeo wasn’t ready to officially say Bergenheim would play Game 1 over Carter. Both can get in on the forecheck, kill penalties and bring energy. Yeo also trusts both defensively.
“We are expecting a tough matchup for that line,” Yeo said. “We need guys that are, No. 1, solid defensively because I’m expecting matchups that we have to be strong in our defensive part of our game, but you also don’t want to defend the whole time. If you are out there against offensive-type players, then certainly there are opportunities to create offense against those guys as well.”
It sounds like Yeo may be considering inserting Erik Haula or Jordan Schroeder when the series returns to Minnesota, but Yeo said he doesn’t have a plan beyond Game 1.
As for Cooke, the veteran who recently returned after missing 31 games with a sports hernia said he pushed hard Monday and it was “nagging.”
“I knew I was going to be in for this process,” said Cooke, 36. “I pushed it pretty hard to get back and get on the ice a lot and skate a lot to make sure my conditioning was where it was supposed to be. It felt pretty good in the two games that I played. But it’s still going to be, I’m still in a situation that throughout the playoffs, I’m going to have to gauge how it recovers.”
Kuemper falls ill
Goalie Darcy Kuemper didn’t travel with the team to St. Louis because he was sick. That means goalie Niklas Backstrom is expected to back up Devan Dubnyk for at least Game 1.
“We sent him to the doctors just to find out what’s going on,” Yeo said. “Most likely we’ll keep him away from the group.”
• Wild athletic therapist Don Fuller, athletic trainer John Worley and massage therapist Travis Green have won the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association Outstanding Athletic Trainer Award. They’ll be honored April 25 in Plymouth.
• Dubnyk and rookie Matt Dumba are the only Wild players expected to make their playoff debuts Thursday.