The Minnesota Wild have not been playing up to the preseason
hype or their potential.
In this lockout-shortened season, the time for a turnaround is
Winless in four road games this season, the Wild (4-4-1) return
home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Seven of
their next nine games are against Northwest Division teams, and the
48-game season is about 20 percent gone.
So at practice on Wednesday, coach Mike Yeo shuffled his forward
Dany Heatley was taken off the first line to skate with center
Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Rookie Charlie Coyle replaced
Heatley, joining center Mikko Koivu and star Zach Parise.
“I wouldn’t say it was unexpected,” said Heatley, who has no
points in his past four games after tallying four goals and two
assists in the first five. “I’m playing with two real creative
guys, so hopefully we can get something going.”
Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund rotated spots on the third
line with center Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. New acquisition
Mike Rupp was on the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell and Zenon
Rupp, who came in a trade with the New York Rangers, will make
his Wild debut against the Canucks.
“I’m just a complementary guy. There are a lot of good things
going here,” Rupp said. “This team is headed in the right
direction. I’m excited to be a part of it and contribute in any
way. Obviously, my game is to play physical. I’m going to try to
come in here and help this team win hockey games any way I
By calling up Coyle, trading Darroll Powe for Rupp and demoting
Setoguchi and Granlund from the second line, the Wild have shown
they’re not willing to simply wait for one of the deepest groups of
forwards the franchise has had to produce.
From owner Craig Leipold to general manager Chuck Fletcher to
Yeo and his staff, there’s a demand of success that’s hanging
heavier over this team than before.
“Normally we’ve played nine games and you have more time to sort
things out, but you don’t have as much time,” Yeo said. “So
certainly it magnifies things. We just have to make sure that we’re
doing whatever we can to find the best mix to put the best product
on the ice.”
The Wild have scored only 21 goals in nine games – including one
in each of their last two, losses at Anaheim and Phoenix.
The Canucks, meanwhile, arrive in St. Paul riding a three-game
winning streak. They’ve allowed just three goals during that
stretch, entirely with Roberto Luongo in net.
Cory Schneider, the starter to begin the season with Luongo the
subject of trade talks, will return to the crease Thursday.
Schneider has a 3.13 goals-against average in four starts compared
to Luongo’s 1.53 GAA in six appearances.
“I’m really excited,” Schneider said. “Lu’s done his job, and
now it’s my turn to jump in and try to keep that going. You never
want to be the guy that halts the momentum.”
Vancouver (5-2-2) kept it going in overtime Monday in Edmonton,
beating the Oilers 3-2. Kevin Bieksa tied the score late in
regulation, then Luongo stopped Taylor Hall’s penalty shot in the
extra period before Chris Tanev scored his first NHL goal with 20
seconds left in OT.
The Canucks should face another challenge in Minnesota, where
they’ve yielded five goals or more four times while losing six of
their last eight visits.