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Amid Injuries, Wild Looking For Others To Step Up

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Missing a key offensive piece, Wild practice on Friday took on a defensive look.

Head Coach Mike Yeo said Zach Parise has been ruled out for the next couple of games with a lower-body injury. But regardless of the Wild's lineup, Yeo said Minnesota has things it can be doing better.

"There have been too many times where one line goes out, and the next line goes out, and things are going the right way, and then another line goes out, and they take away from our game," Yeo said. "We have to get back to our identity here as far as the game we play consistently, guy after guy."

Without Parise, who leads the team with seven goals, Yeo said it would be important to play well defensively, an area of the Wild's game he was critical of after a 3-2 loss against the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

"Every guy does it in his own way, every guy has a different piece to the puzzle they're supposed to bring," Yeo said. "[Thomas Vanek's] game is going to look different from [Mikko Koivu's] game, which is going to look different from [Ryan Carter's] game, but everybody is going to be on the same page, and doing the same thing, and that's just not on the forwards, it's on the defense; (it's on) everybody."

The Wild will also be without defenseman Nate Prosser, who Yeo said injured his back. Prosser has played six of the Wild's 12 games this season, including each of the past four.

Christian Folin, who has been a scratch in all four of those games Prosser has dressed, is expected back in the lineup.

Taking Parise's spot on the top line in practice was Charlie Coyle, who has jumped between center and wing this season.

"Zach is a tough guy to replace. He's one of the leaders on our team, but we do have depth that can fill roles," Coyle said. "We can still be a good team. I don't think it matters who goes out of the lineup, or who goes in the lineup, we play to our identity, and our system, and if everyone pitches in and pulls the rope a little bit more, we'll be okay."

Coyle began the season on wing flanking center Tyler Graovac. When Graovac was injured, Coyle moved to center. Now with Parise out, Coyle will go back to the wing, this time with Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund.

"I don't have a crystal ball that that's the way things are going to go, but that's something we want to give a shot to here," Yeo said. "Just looking at [Granlund] and [Pominville] we want somebody with some straight-ahead speed, somebody that can be physical, somebody than can be strong on the puck, and we'll see how that goes."

Yeo said it's likely the Wild's top two lines from practice will remain intact, while a called-up forward, which is expected, is more likely to slot in on the third or fourth line.

"Guys just have to step up, and it doesn't have to be the same guy every night, but most important is that we play our game," Yeo said. "We're missing some key guys, but we still have a lot of real good hockey players in the lineup, and good hockey teams get through stuff like this."

With rushes from practice and the information Yeo provided afterward, here are the Wild's current forward lines:

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuNino Niederreiter

Jason PominvilleMikael GranlundCharlie Coyle

Thomas VanekErik HaulaJordan Schroeder

Chris PorterRyan Carter - TBD

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