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Wild Veterans Leading The Way Early On

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

There was a lot of talk during preseason about the Wild's young core, and how it was ready to take the next step and potentially take the Wild to the next level.

Not to be forgotten over Minnesota's first three games, all wins, are the veterans.

"We talk about a lot of our veterans, and you've got to be pleased with all of them, the way that they're playing," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.

Defenseman Ryan Suter, and forwards Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Thomas Vanek are each off to great starts.

"What is it, our 10th, 11th year for a lot of us?" Suter said. "Like fine wine, you get better with age. Things are going well, and we just have to continue that. We're familiar with each other; that's a big part."

Suter has recorded four assists through three games, and has been a rock in his own zone.

"[Suter's] game has been really, really strong," Yeo said. "The things that you think of when he's on top of his game defensively, he's a guy that has the ability to separate guys—I don't want to say easily—but he makes it looks easy."

Then there is the offensive component. Suter was paired with Jared Spurgeon in training camp in part to open things up offensively for Suter playing with a right-shot defensemen.

"I really feel he's been getting involved in the rush, getting involved up-ice, and his execution and his poise with the puck is huge for us," Yeo said.

Parise has a league-leading five goals, Koivu has a goal and an assist, and has been, per usual, an effective two-way center.

Then there's Vanek, who scored his 300th career goal on Thursday in a 4-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes, and has found some early rhythm with center Charlie Coyle.

"[Coyle], he took a huge step. I said this summer center is the hardest position," Vanek said. "For him, a big power forward moving to the middle of the ice, last year he struggled in the faceoff circle early on, and now he's just a beast out there, and you can see how much room he creates. He opens up a lot of room for me and I can shoot the puck."

Vanek has two goals in his first three games. Last season, Vanek scored his second goal in game number 22 of the season.

"You look at what he's done so far this year, and I'd say it's been a big difference compared to the start of the year last year," Yeo said. "Obviously everything was new last year, but that aside, 5-on-5, his play has been very strong."

Yeo said after watching clips of Vanek after the Coyotes game, it was clear how hard he was working.

"I want to make sure that, as a coach, we keep rewarding him in those situations," Yeo said. "If he keeps doing those things then it will lead to more opportunities for him for sure."

Now those veterans will try to help lead the Wild to its fourth win in as many games on Friday against a winless Los Angeles Kings team.

"I'm thinking that we're going to see a very desperate, very good hockey team tonight," Yeo said. "There's been a lot of times where they looked like they've been very unlucky to be winless right now, and only have a couple of goals. They're still getting a lot of pucks to the net, and they're creating plays, but it just hasn't gone in for them."

Here are the Wild's projected lines:

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuNino Niederreiter

Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Thomas VanekCharlie CoyleJustin Fontaine

Chris PorterErik HaulaRyan Carter

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Marco ScandellaChristian Folin

Darcy Kuemper

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