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Haula Continues Streak Of Strong Performances

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

SAN JOSE -- After the Wild claimed forward Jarret Stoll off waivers in December, it gave Minnesota renewed depth of front.

With 13 healthy forwards in the fold, it became a numbers game, and in Stoll's first three appearances, it was forward Erik Haula who was a healthy scratch.

Now Haula is playing at a level that is earning him more ice time, and earning high praise from his coach.

"He's playing very well, and I would like to see him continue to play at this level," Yeo said. "He's getting involved offensively. He's always had a good defensive game. There's a good base there, and he's a guy that I definitely trust and can put him on the ice really against anybody."

From the first game Haula sat out, Yeo made it clear that Haula wasn't playing poorly, but that he would like for Haula to elevate his game.

"It wasn't long ago when I was scratched, and I have to play great," Haula said on Saturday morning. "I have to be on the top of my game if I want to stay in, and it's a challenge every night."

Haula played 11:49 against the Kings on Thursday, winning eight of his 12 faceoffs and scoring a crucial shorthanded goal to put the Wild up 3-0 in the third period.

Over his past eight games, Haula has won 55 percent of his faceoffs. That began on a night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he won 10-of-15 with the Wild playing virtually the entire game without center Mikko Koivu.

In those eight games, Haula has played 8:32 shorthanded, and scored a shorthanded goal, while Minnesota has not conceded a power-play goal with him on the ice.

"It's nice to be able to throw a guy like that out there on the ice," Yeo said. "You can put him in d-zone faceoffs, and I'm not concerned if they throw out their top line. You can throw him out there against anybody, and have the confidence that defensively he's going to do the job."

Haula announced himself on the scene two years ago in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he scored four goals and had seven points in 13 games.

Yeo said he's now seeing a player the Wild has known has been there all along.

"We still believe that potential is there," Yeo said. "Obviously the defensive part of it, but for him to be able to make his speed a factor, and find a way to create, and generate a bit of offense as well as that strong defensive game."

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