Minnesota Wild: Line-up Changes Coming Ahead of Game Three


The Wild are at home tonight in a safe-to-say must-win situation taking on a red-hot Blackhawks team in game three of round-two. If your superstitious with your hockey, then here’s a fun little fact for you; Much like the Blackhawks historical dominance in game 6’s of a playoff series, over the past three years (including this post-season), the Minnesota Wild are a perfect 4-0 in game 3’s of a playoff series. Here’s to hoping they continue that trend tonight. 

We all know the Wild need to be much better then they have been thus far against the rival Hawks. Eventually, they have to beat this team when it matters most. This series is far from over though folks. Last year, the Wild were down 0-2 in both round one and two against the Avalanche and this same Hawk team. Yes, it’s an entirely new year and even the players are the first to say you can’t look at what was accomplished in the past during the playoffs and compare it to the present, but at least as fans we should have the faith and confidence that they can do it again.

Speed the Answer?

A lot of Minnesota fans are getting what they want tonight when we see Jordan Schroeder taking Chris Stewart‘s spot on the second line. No word yet on the extent of Stewart’s injury, but now with Stew and Justin Fontaine out for at least tonight, Fletcher’s accrued depth will be the factor. As per Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, here’s what the Wild’s lines look like at the morning skate today:

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*Per Russo: Yeo also indicated that these are not necessarily the lines for tonight, and Russo believes that there’s a chance Ryan Carter could slide in as well for an undisclosed player (please be for Cooke, please be for Cooke). If these are indeed the lines though, well then…

No surprise that Yeo  doesn’t think twice about splitting up the top line, even though I personally believe we need improved play by Jason Pominville. In Ben’s three stars of the week article, is it a surprise two stars come from the top-line? (I won’t tell you who they are) This trio will be the only permanent fixture throughout the line-up the rest of the way.

Now for the changes. I like this second line consisting of Nino-Koivu-Schroeder. Nino provides that silly hard shot, the Captain provides the two-way game and “Shredder” has the speed. I’m excited to see how this line looks without Stewart who has been virtually invisible this series. Even if Stew was indeed healthy enough to play tonight, I would have liked to see him drop down to the third or fourth lines. He just hasn’t produced. I could however also see Zucker and Schroeder swap lines throughout the game if needed.

Key to Success

The bottom six simply need to produce tonight. Thomas Vanek had one of his ugliest games in a Wild sweater Sunday. He was a -4 overall, and had multiple turnovers while trying to generate any sustained pressure alongside center Charlie Coyle. While we’re at it, Matt Cooke has not done a damn thing for me this year. I still don’t understand why a guy who missed 3/4 of the season, at 36 years of age, has his spot on the fourth line night-in and night-out. Playoff experience you say? I haven’t seen it from him. Quite frankly, he’s taking a spot that should be in all honesty shared between Ryan Carter and Sean Bergenheim. We need Cooke to do something, anything for his team. Within the rules that is. We’ll see closer to game time if Yeo indeed shakes up the fourth line.

The Wild will be eliminated if we don’t see any production from this specific mixed group of bottom six youth and vets. And for the love of God, if they are going to get the opportunities they do (i.e. breakaways, odd man rushes etc.) then they have to start finishing. The Hawks capitalize on every solid chance they get,  Minnesota does not.

Enjoy the game and be sure to tune back in to Gone Puck Wild for “Trembley’s Take” notes and post-game highlights.

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