In a do or die Game 4, the Minnesota Wild will do everything in its power against the Chicago Blackhawks to not, well, be eliminated. The not-dying part includes making a number of changes in its line, trying to take the jumper cables to the offenses.
Charlie Coyle will move to the wing with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. The 23-year-old started his NHL career on the wing with the Wild, but made the switch to center this season.
“I think it should be fine. I had a few shifts last game where I was on the right side with Mikko in the middle,” Coyle said. “I don’t think it should be anything new really. Obviously I’ve been playing at center for a little bit but I know how to play wing.”
Coyle has skated on the wing with Koivu in the past. The Wild wants to play more of an offensive-zone cycle type of game and the forward believes that he can be a factor on the line.
“I think it will be nice to get in on the forecheck and just create some havoc down there,” Coyle said.
While yesterday, the team talked about having patience against the Hawks, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the club still needs to be aggressive. Sustaining pressure in the offensive zone will help keep the Blackhawks from getting out in open ice.
“I don't think the word 'patience' is the right word. We have to keep attacking,” Yeo said. “We have to defend. Defending is what prevents you from losing hockey games. We have to make sure that we don't lose. At the same time, you can't win if you don't attack. We have to attack. We have to attack their game plan a little bit more than we have.”
With Coyle moving to the wing, Nino Niederreiter will drop down to the third line with Thomas Vanek and Kyle Brodziak joining the mix.
“With the way Brodzy played last game, there's no reason he can't go in there and do a lot of what Charlie was doing,” Yeo said.
Yeo hopes that putting a couple of bigger bodies with Vanek will help create space for the wing, especially in the O-zone.
“Giving Thomas two bigger bodies, two guys that should be capable of playing down low, should be capable of moving for him, buying a little ice for him, getting to the net and also having the work ethic to hound and recover pucks,” Yeo said. “I'd like to see that line be effective below the top of the circles.”
Erik Haula will return to the lineup after playing in Game 2 in Chicago. He’ll center Jordan Schroeder and Matt Cooke. The team’s top line, Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, will remain in tact.
Defenseman Nate Prosser will enter on the blue line. The 29-year-old will make his first appearance in the postseason and will replace Jordan Leopold.
“It’s not the first time I’ve done this. I’ve done this a few times. Hopefully I’m able to find my comfort zone right away,” Prosser said.
The Elk River native hasn’t appeared in a game since the final game of the regular season against the St. Louis Blues on April 11. However, he’s primed for the opportunity and to make an impact on the series. Last year, he played in 10 postseason contests.
“It’s an all-time high. How can you beat this? At home, playing in front of my family and friends at Xcel against the Blackhawks. You can’t beat that. You can’t even write that up,” Prosser said. “On top of it, it’s my birthday today so it all kind of boiled into one today. I’m real excited for tonight and just want to be able to bring my game.”
The 29-year-old hopes the Wild delivers a happy birthday and force a Game 5 in Chicago on Saturday.
Stewart and Fontaine Out
Both Chris Stewart (upper body) and Justin Fontaine (lower body) are still on the mend. Fontaine skated this morning, but neither is ready to return.
Change of Party Plans
Tonight’s pregame party has been cancelled due to inclement weather.
The following elements will be moved inside Gate 4 and tickets to the game are required to gain entry:
• Autographs from NHL Alumni (former North Star and four-time Stanley Cup Champion Dave Langevin, North Stars Brian Bellows and Dan Mandich, and former Wild center Brian Bonin) from 7 - 8 p.m.
• FM 100.3 KFAN’s Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti, hosts of “Wild Primer,” will be broadcasting live from 6:30 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.
• Happy Hour specials from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Bud Light Fan Zone.