ST. PAUL, Minn. — Charlie Coyle has that enviable blend of size and skills, a 25-year-old forward on the verge of realizing the potential of a former first-round draft pick.
Without Coyle’s clutch contributions, the Minnesota Wild would have been bounced already from their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. Perhaps this spring has triggered the breakthrough performance for a player the Wild have planned to be part of their core for several seasons to come.
That’s a good reason why coach Bruce Boudreau, whose long-ago, short-lived NHL career was unfulfilling because he lacked the drive to match his ability, has been as demanding of Coyle as anyone else on his roster.
“When he wants to play,” Boudreau said, “he can play. He’s been a good player.”
With the first goal in a 2-0 win for Minnesota at St. Louis in Game 4 on Wednesday, Coyle helped keep the Wild alive. He also had four shots on goal, two hits, two takeaways and one blocked shot in a well-timed two-way effort. He has scored two of the Wild’s five goals in the series, totaled 13 on-target shot attempts, which is tied for the second-most on the team, and played sound defense on the other end.
“You’d like to get it every night,” Boudreau said. “Right now I just would like to get it for the next three games.”
Trailing 3-1, the Wild host the Blues in Game 5 on Saturday.
“Everything, the intensity, the atmosphere is ramped up, and you have to bring your level up,” Coyle said. “So that’s my mentality. That’s our team’s mentality.”
Coyle, who is the franchise’s all-time playoffs leader with 98 hits, including 14 in this series, had a career-high 56 points and 159 shots on goal during the regular season. But he went through a 27-game stretch from early January to early March when he scored only one goal, and Boudreau didn’t hesitate to hound him for it. The issue for Coyle hasn’t been so much about coasting as it is about a nice guy by nature not being as aggressive as his team needs him to be.
“I don’t mind a coach being hard on me. If he needs something more from me, tell me,” Coyle said.
The Blues were hoping a two-day break between games and the possible return of center Paul Stastny from a lower body injury would re-energize them. Stastny skated on the first line between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko at practice on Friday, though coach Mike Yeo wasn’t ready to declare him good to go.
“If we add a player like Stas, then obviously you become a better team,” Yeo said.