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Pominville, Haula, Niederreiter Line Staying Hot

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

When Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Pominville hop over the boards for shifts together, they communicate in English. It's none of their first-language, but a common denominator for the three forwards.

Well that, and since the line was formed nine games ago, it can't stop scoring, and can't stop doing things to help the Minnesota Wild win.

"I feel like we talk a lot on the bench to support each other and try to get better as a line," Niederreiter said after the line scored four times on Tuesday to help the Minnesota Wild defeat the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3. "Tonight we talked beforehand of what we had to do, our game plan, and we stuck with it the whole game."

The raw numbers jump off the page. Since beginning to skate together against the Vancouver Canucks nine games ago, Haula, Niederreiter, and Pominville have combined for 12 goals and 26 points at even-strength.

That coincided with interim Head Coach John Torchetti's first game in Minnesota, the Wild has gone 6-3-0 in that time, and the Wild has erased a six-point gap on the Colorado Avalanche, pulling into the second wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday.

"When you build that chemistry and start scoring, you can start picking on little things," Haula said. "We read off each other pretty well right now and the dynamics are there for our line. We all understand what we have to do night in and night out with the matchups."

Because it's not just that the Wild's new third line — in where it appears on the depth chart — is producing offensively. It's doing so while being tasked with checking its opponent's top forwards.

In its same nine-game stretch, the line has been on the ice for nine five-on-five goals for, and two against.

"I just think that they want to play on both sides of the puck," Torchetti said. "The whole team can learn from that."

Against the Avalanche, its latest assignment was to bottle up the speedy, offensively gifted line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikkel Boedker.

Then, in a span of 7:11 in the first period, each forward on the line scored with Colorado's top trio on the ice, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.

"We talked before the game that winning that matchup’s going to be huge, and trying to keep them off the board, and checking them all, and eventually we’ll get chances," Haula said. "And I guess no better way to start it than getting three on them and getting them real frustrated right away."

On the night, the Landeskog line did not score at five-on-five. Niederreiter added a late empty-net goal when Pominville unselfishly goaded Carl Soderberg away from the goal, before the French-speaking right-winger skied a pass to his German-speaking left wing who jammed home an exclamation point, which looked the same in Haula's Finnish.

"We know we’re going to get [chances] eventually if we keep playing the right way," Haula said. "It’s been great with our line right now."

After the line combined for three goals and four assists against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series Game (Pominville also scored a power-play goal away from Haula and Niederreiter), Pominville said the line is playing with success, fostered by scoring goals.

That's a far cry from stretches each of the three forwards have experienced this season, slumps mired in an inability to produce points.

"I kind of put myself behind the eight ball early," said Pominville, who went the first 21 games of the season without a goal, but now has 11 in his past 43, and five in his past eight. "Tough start. I’ve never really had to deal with something as bad as that in my career so I just wanted to rebound in a good way.

"Fresh start with a new coach, and he’s showing a lot of confidence in our line, playing us against top lines so we’ve got to defend and giving us a lot of liberty to make plays in the [offensive] zone. We’re just finding ways to score more goals."

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