Over the course of 13 games this season, the Wild have seen three players leave the ice with injuries and ultimately miss several contests.
Well, that’s abruptly coming to an end tonight as Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Keith Ballard are each in the lineup against Montreal, providing the Wild with a revamped roster in one fell swoop.
Brodin is returning after he took a puck to the face against Nashville Oct. 22, which broke his right cheekbone, causing him to miss three games. With the swelling down and only a slight bruise under his eye, Brodin will sport a bubble mask. He said the clear mask gives him better visibility than a cage would and doesn’t anticipate it should effect him in any way — other than the fact he needs to clean it more often than if he was wearing his usual half shield.
Ballard, who suffered a puck to the face against Buffalo Oct. 14 — thankfully no broken bones there — missed seven games, more as a precautionary measure. He said the recovery process for him was more about clearing all the checks, making sure he didn’t have any concussion symptoms. Ballard does have a history of concussions, suffering two during his time with the Canucks from 2010-13.
As someone who (thankfully) has never suffered taking a puck to the face (and I hope to keep it that way), I asked Ballard how it felt. He said it hurts about as much as you can imagine. Well then.
While it’s been pretty clear all week Coyle would be back in the lineup, who he is paired with has been the surprise. Head Coach Mike Yeo shook up the lines quite a bit Tuesday but kept us in the dark on whether Dany Heatley or Justin Fontaine would fill in that final spot on the top line with Coyle centering and Zach Parise on the wing. Today, finally, Heatley got the spot, but Yeo did say it will be nice to have the flexibility to move Fontaine up if needed.
The big question though, is if Coyle will be able to pick up where he left off. He arguably had one of the strongest camps on the team, but wasn’t able to ride that momentum into the season for all that long as he suffered a knee sprain in the second game of the season on Oct. 5. Coyle told WildTV earlier this week that he’s been feeling good in practice.
Coyle and the rest of the Wild will put its new lines to the test tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, a team they don’t often face. In fact, the all-time record currently between the two stands at 4-4-3. In their last meeting, the Canadiens took a 5-4 shootout win in Montreal on March 1, 2012. The last time they met at Xcel Energy Center, on March 20, 2011, Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban became the first blue liner to record a hat trick against Minnesota, en route to a 8-1 victory.
While there isn’t the most formidable history between the Wild and Canadiens, Yeo did serve as an assistant coach under Montreal Head Coach Michel Therrien from 2005-09 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Together, they helped take the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 07-08, where they lost to Detroit.
After morning skate, Yeo talked about going up against Therrien tonight, noting it’s an exciting game for him and wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for Therrien.
Tonight does pose a tough test. The Canadiens are 4-1-0 on the road this season and hold a 5-4-0 record against Western Conference Foes. While getting the first goal in any matchup is a good momentum builder, and certainly helps out mentally, the Habs are 7-1-0 when scoring first this season.
Today also marks the opening of the new Hockey Lodge at Southdale Center. Fans in the Southwest metro can now stock up on even more Wild hockey paraphernalia and a new, convenient location.