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Brewing The Right Chemistry

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

The Lighthouse would never claim that math is its strong suit, but on maybe the most celebrated math-related day that also involves baked goods, we’re all for it.

State of Hockey friends, today is Pi Day (3.14). So grab a fork and dig into your favorite tart. In chatting with the Lighthouse today, Keith Ballard indicated he had a certain circular treat on his mind.

“Yeah I might stop on the way home, get some French Silk.”

Before Ballard or the rest of the Wild could enjoy any pie, they hit the ice for practice this morning. Head Coach Mike Yeo continued to work the lines he ended the game with yesterday as Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle swapped places.

Both Niederreiter and Coyle have seen playing time in different roles throughout the lineup this season but with just over a handful of games left in the push for the playoffs, having the flexibility to move lines and find chemistry is important.

“I think every guy on the team would say the same thing, no one really cares where they’re playing,” Coyle said. “You always want to be the go-to guy and help out. Everyone has a certain role and the guys who play those roles are fine with that and they take pride in that. That’s what we need. That’s what makes good teams. You’ve got to be open to anything. This late, there’s no room to sulk. You just do what’s best for the team.”

“We just have to make sure every line finds a way to click and bring everything, every night,” Niederreiter added.

Niederreiter moved up with Mikko Koivu and Matt Moulson after working with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak. The two former Isles said they briefly skated together in New York, playing in some exhibition games together during Nino’s first season with the team.

Though the 21-year-old has spent some time playing with both Koivu and Moulson, on separate occasions, he noted that it was still tough to move right away as they tried to find the right chemistry.

“It doesn’t just click right away,” Niederreiter said. “You’ve got to find each other, you’ve got to get a little chemistry. But today in practice it felt good. The longer the game went on (yesterday), the better I felt.”

The winger also noted that when moving lines, he simply sticks to his game.

“I just have to make sure I play my game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which line I’m on, if I’m the first, second, third or fourth line. I just have to make sure I play my game and don’t overthink too much.”

Before Nino switched lines last night, he did net his first goal since he returned from the Olympic Games, ending a six-game goalless skid. He said he knows he’s had a lot of chances lately — putting eight shots on net during those six games — but it just felt like it didn’t want to go in.

“As long as I can get chances, it’s good for me,” Nino said. “I have to worry if I don’t get chances any more. That wasn’t the case so I just have to make sure I find a way to bear down more often.”

Meanwhile, Coyle moved to the third line with Cooke and Brodziak. Coyle has seen some playing time with Cooke, centering him for a few games. The 22-year-old said he liked playing with the two yesterday and noted that they have already started to click.

“They do their job and they do it well,” Coyle added.

Coyle has embodied the team-player sentiment all season long. From starting the year at center to moving to the wing, then back at center, then back to the wing, he’s said time and again he’s happy to do what ever is asked of him.

But he also entered the season with higher expectations on his shoulders after a strong rookie year. In his sophomore campaign, meeting those expectations has been a work in progress. Coyle is 10th on the team in points with 20 on seven goals and 13 assists. He did miss 12 games earlier in the season due to a knee injury and has played in only 54 of the Wild’s 66 contests this year.

While he’s been working hard night in and night out, his point production isn’t quite where he wishes it would be. Yeo said it’s a good struggle Coyle has to face.

“I think he wants more, there’s no question,” the bench boss said. “It’s good for a young player to have to deal with that. … This is the first year were there was some really strong expectations for him and he was forced to try and meet them.

“I think it’s important for any young player to have to deal with that, to have to fight through that. It’s only going to make him stronger.”

Yeo did praise Coyle’s preparation and his focus going into each game, saying he’s got that “pro side of it figured out.”

“He puts his career first every day and that’s pretty impressive for a young kid.”

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