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Balance Helping Wild On Offense And In Matchups

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

OTTAWA – When forwards Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula each scored their 10th goals of the season on Saturday, against the Montreal Canadiens, the Wild matched an NHL high with 11 skaters with double-digit goals.

Balanced scoring, so paramount to success in today's NHL, is something the Wild said it knows is key heading into its game on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

"You don't know where it's going to come from," Ryan Carter said. "It's nice too from a pressure standpoint. If things aren't going for one line, then you can count on another, and that's how the last little while has gone for us."

For the Wild, it hasn't only been a matter of getting contributions from different lines, but also from both its veteran and younger players.

"With everyone contributing it just helps our team's success," Matt Dumba said. "Everyone just putting forth that effort, and finding a way to put the puck in the back of the net, and contributions coming from everywhere."

When interim Head Coach John Torchetti took over in mid-February, he said it was important offensively for the Wild's established goal-scorers to get back on track.

But Torchetti also said the Wild needed its younger core to become a bigger part of the team, both on and off the ice.

Of the 11 double-digit goal scorers, six are under the age of 25. The 11 double-digit skaters ties a Wild franchise record, set in 2008-09.

"Overall, for the kids, they have to understand that I have confidence in them all the time, good or bad," Torchetti said. "Just keep improving.

"Now we have to get other guys, like when we get [Jason Zucker] back in, we have to get him going, because he can be a big asset for us moving forward."

Rosters are also constructed differently than they used to be. Where top-six forwards used to account for the bulk of a team's scoring, goals are more distributed throughout an entire lineup.

"From when I broke into the league, it was kind of a two-line scoring league," said Carter, who debuted in the NHL in 2007. "The top two lines scored, the third line checked, and the fourth line was an energy line.

"The league has kind of changed, and now it's a three-line scoring league, and fourth line, the same thing, but maybe even wanting to contribute sometimes."

Where it was routine for multiple players to finish with 100-point seasons, there have been three players to do so over the past four 82-game schedules.

Likewise, the 50-goal season is becoming more of a rarity, with five such seasons over the past four full calendars of hockey.

"The league has changed in that way, and that's probably why you see scoring throughout the lineup, up-and-down," Carter said.

The balance for the Wild also manifests itself in how it goes about its matchups. Carter said those have been a bigger focus since Torchetti took over, but like the scoring, it's balance that is important to the Wild's success.

"[Torchetti] trusts guys in certain roles, and those guys accept those roles, and it's resulting in good matchups for the rest of our guys," Carter said. "That's probably the reason why it's nice to have double-digit scorers, because when you get those matchups, you take advantage of them."

Here is the Wild's projected lineup:

Zach PariseMikko KoivuCharlie Coyle

Thomas VanekMikael GranlundJordan Schroeder

Nino NiederreiterErik HaulaJustin Fontaine

Ryan CarterJarret StollDavid Jones

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaMatt Dumba

Jonas BrodinNate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

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