When the regular season began for the Minnesota Wild, Head Coach Mike Yeo made it clear: With 10 spots on the power play, there would be good players who wouldn't find their way into the mix.
Fast-forward 14 games, injuries and strong performances have shuffled the deck for the Wild and created opportunities. One player whose name keeps popping up is Charlie Coyle.
"And an earned opportunity for him, too," Yeo said. "We keep trying to find a way to increase his ice time, and he's been earning more and more penalty-killing time."
A staple on the penalty kill, Coyle had been one of the power play casualties simply due to numbers. Now, Coyle has not only moved onto the second power play unit, he's playing on a line with Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund.
Both opportunities were created by Zach Parise's injury, but Coyle left little doubt he was the man for the job.
"Those guys have been playing together, I'm kind of the new guy on the line, but we've created some good chemistry there from practices," Coyle said. "They're skilled guys who work hard, and I'm just trying to play my game out there."
Coyle is doing it by being true to his identity. At 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, Coyle has the frame to drive possession, and the skill to make plays and complement his linemates.
"When we think of Charlie, when we think of his best games, he's a guy that definitely arrives on the body, but his physicality with the puck is as much as it is without it," Yeo said. "He's a guy that's real tough to get the puck away from. When he's moving his feet down low, when he's controlling, protecting the puck and making plays from below the goal line that's when we feel that he's on top of his game."
It's a fine line for the Wild, whose identity isn't overtly physical, but doesn't shy away from physicality either.
"My game is to kind of use my body, and be a big, physical presence out there whether it's in the corners, or in front of the net, and along the walls," Coyle said. "That's how I have to play, and create some space for those guys to do the things that they do."
Coyle was inserted on the second power play unit after Jason Zucker was bumped up to PP1 to fill in one the half-wall for Marco Scandella.
"He's there to be a shooter," Yeo said of Zucker. "A lot of the play he's had on the power play this year, he's been playing off the flank and he's been on his forehand side, so it's been a little different for him and an adjustment as far as the looks that he's getting. How he's facing the net, and where the pucks are coming from."
Here are the Wild's projected lines:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Jason Pominville – Mikael Granlund – Charlie Coyle
Thomas Vanek – Erik Haula – Jordan Schroeder
Chris Porter – Ryan Carter – Kurtis Gabriel
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Nate Prosser – Christian Folin