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Boudreau tinkers with lines ahead of game Saturday in Denver

Parise, Donato flipped as Wild looks to find more offense against Avs

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

DENVER -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't happy with the way his veteran top line played Thursday night in Nashville. So in practice on Friday at the Pepsi Center, the coach tinkered ever so slightly with the lineup he'll put on the ice when Minnesota plays the Colorado Avalanche here on Saturday night.

The line of Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello was put together for the first time at practice on Tuesday. Because of the short week, the group didn't have much time to create chemistry.

Each member of that line was a minus-3 against the Predators in a 5-2 loss that was made even more frustrating by the fact that the Wild led the game entering the third period. 

On Friday, Parise was moved to the wing with Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway, while Ryan Donato was put with Staal and Zuccarello.

Boudreau wanted to tinker with his groupings up front but didn't want wholesale change after just one game.

"I didn't change everything around, but one change to show that maybe it helps both players," Boudreau said.  

If Friday's line combinations carry through to the game, it would mark the first time since the start of training camp that Parise won't be on the same line as Zuccarello.

"I thought it was a different look," Boudreau said. "Zach likes playing with [Luke] Kunin and I thought that line needed a change a little bit. I could have been more drastic and had line combinations where it was more drastic, but then you have to pull back the reigns and say, 'It was game one.' Let's not go into a full-fledged panic here."

It's not as though those lines have no experience playing together.

Kunin centered Parise and Zuccarello for a stretch of training camp, while Donato spent time at center with Zuccarello as well.

Video: Lines change at practice in Colorado

"Those guys play hard. I think when Jordan is protecting the puck the way that he can, he's tough to knock off the puck and he can win those battles down low," Parise said. "They both can move and they're both really good players. Being allowed to work at it, I think we could have a good line."

Even though Donato is on the wing now, he did learn one important thing about playing with the crafty Zuccarello.

"You always have to be ready to receive the puck," Donato said. "He sees things that other guys can't, so if you're in the offensive zone, just be ready to get the puck and be ready to shoot because he'll pass up chances to shoot and he'll find you in an unbelievable spot."

It also marks a good opportunity for a young player like Donato to make a big impact playing with two older veterans.

"Any opportunity like that is huge," Donato said. "With those two guys, they're complete players. They make plays, the can score goals, hopefully I can contribute to that."


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