Jordan Schroeder scored twice last week, his first two goals as a member of the Minnesota Wild. The celebration after his second tally, in the club’s last outing against the Carolina Hurricanes, was much subdued when compared to the first. The emphatic fist pump of his first in a Wild sweater was, at least in part, because in accordance with being his inaugural mark, it came against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.
Tonight, the 24-year-old returns to the Vancouver for the first time since signing with Minnesota in the offseason. The Lakeville native was selected in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Schroeder said that getting his first goal as a member of the Wild against his former team made it a little extra special. However, now with the team amidst a serious push to climb back into Western Conference playoff picture, he has to take a just-another-game mindset into tonight’s tilt, even though he’s primed to be back in the city.
“It’s exciting, it’s where my pro career started,” Schroeder said. “But it’s just another game we have to win.”
The speedster has found a spot on the wing alongside the big bodies of Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. In the few games they’ve played together, they’ve had a good mix up front.
“When he’s playing with Nino and Charlie, he’s been playing more of a north game going straight ahead and allowing his speed to be more of a factor,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “We’ve got two big bodies and two guys that are real strong on the puck, but it’s nice to add that speed element to that group.”
Schroeder tries to play off their size and use his wheels to create offense.
“They have such good hockey sense and their size obviously helps them down low,” Schroeder said. “They can spin the rock down there and if I can jump into openings and use my speed — I think we feed off each other well.”
Expanded Role For Depth Players
With opponents focusing in on the top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, the Wild will continue to look for depth in scoring.
“If you look at last game, it was probably the reason we won the game,” Yeo said. “I don’t know if we can refer to Thomas (Vanek) scoring two goals as secondary scoring, he’s a guy we look to create offense, but certainly away from that top line. Nino and Charlie and Schrades have been finding a way to create some offense for us and we’ll need that to continue.”
Minnesota was buoyed by the team’s second line in the win against the Hurricanes, particularly the added contributions offensively from Justin Fontaine. The wing teamed with Vanek and Mikael Granlund for a combined seven-point (2-5=7) night.
“He works hard and can make plays like we saw last game,” Granlund said about Fontaine. “Especially on the forecheck, he goes really hard.”
Fontaine has found an expanded role, with the absence of Ryan Carter and Jason Zucker. Along with the task of contributing offensively, the wing has been used on the penalty kill. He’s watch his teammates closely and put in extra video session to get up to speed on the PK.
“I’ve watched a lot of great killers and we’re missing a few of them,” Fontaine said. “Get reps in and watching video and take it from there.”
The Wild has killed 25 consecutive power play opportunities from opponents. Against Vancouver, the Wild would like to take advantage of its chances on the man advantage…
Make Them Pay
It’s been a physical first two games against Vancouver. The Wild lost both Carter (upper body) and Zucker (broken clavicle) against the Canucks in the last meeting on Feb. 9 at Xcel Energy Center.
Yeo pondered putting Stu Bickel into the lineup for size and grit, but decided to roll with the same lineup. He hopes that if the Canucks want to get chippy, the Wild will respond on the scoreboard.
“We’ve got to be ready for them to play a physical game again,” Yeo said. “What I’d like to see is us combat that with our power play, the way we did that previous game. That was instrumental in us getting that win.”
Dubnyk MVP Candidate?
Only one player has ever won the Hart Trophy as the League’s most valuable player after splitting time between two clubs. Joe Thornton won the honor in 2006 after being traded from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks.
NHL analyst Barry Melrose thinks that if the Wild makes the playoffs, goaltender Devan Dubnyk should be seriously considered. From NHL.com’s Melrose Minute:
“Acquiring Dubnyk has completely changed the outlook of this team and completely changed its fortunes, and when you take that into account, as unheard of as it would be, I think you can make an argument that he's been the most valuable player in the League.”