WEDNESDAY’S STORY LINE: “He had a great practice today and was involved in every battle drill,” said Mike Yeo when speaking of Wild Captian Mikko Koivu after practice.
Still, neither Yeo or Koivu indicated whether the captain will be in the lineup for Thursday’s big game against the division-leading Canucks.
One thing seems certain: When Koivu does return, he will be reunited on the top line with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Koivu skated on the line with Heatley and Setoguchi in practice Wednesday.
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The move is surprising because the top line of Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson has been producing strong offensive numbers in Koivu’s absence.
But Yeo believes reuniting the top line is the best decision for now.
“We have to make sure Mikko coming back, that he is such an important part of our team that we surround him the right way. Putting him with Seto and Heater gives us a chance to get that line going and contributing,” Yeo said.
With Koivu, Heatley and Setoguchi reunited, the second and third lines in practice were Matt Cullen centering Cal Clutterbuck and Erik Christensen and Brodziak centering Johnson and Carson McMillan.
Yeo wants the offense spread out among everyone and hopes these line combinations can provide a more well-rounded offensive punch.
“We need more than one line scoring right now, that is the thing,” the coach said. “This time of the year you need lines to go out and be really solid defensively, lines that can go out against top players. But you need different lines contributing, and this should be a group that the lines made up the way that they are right now different nights, different guys should get the job done.”
Reuniting the top line could also help spark Setoguchi, who has struggled of late with just five points (two goals, three assists) in 12 games since returning from a lower-body injury on Jan. 4.
Setoguchi had two good scoring opportunities Tuesday night in Columbus, and Yeo hopes he can continue to build toward contributing every night.
“I want Seto’s season to start right now,” Yeo said. “He is such an important part of our group, and he has played some really good hockey for us at different points of the season. I just want him now to get back in the lineup, play with Mikko, play with Heater and don’t have any hesitation in your game. He is a real effective player when he is playing at his best, and there has been signs of that coming out of the break at different points, but let’s just do it every night.”
HE SAID IT: “We can’t afford that, you know that is what we talked about, you move on and let’s learn from it, but like I said it doesn’t matter if it is now or in the playoffs or whatever time of the year. You have to be able to move on from those, you have to learn from it and you have to push it aside and come back to the rink the next day, and let’s make sure that we are ready to go. That is what playoff hockey is and that is what we have to be putting ourselves in right now.” – Yeo on moving on from Tuesday night’s loss to Columbus