Bruce Boudreau has proven that he’s more than willing to break up a line combination if he feels it will provide the Wild with a spark. He did it again Saturday and it worked to perfection as Jordan Greenway scored Minnesota’s second goal of the game in the second period of a 4-3 victory in Ottawa.
But there is one line the Wild coach has no intention of tinkering with given the recent results. The trio of Charlie Coyle in between wingers Zach Parise and Luke Kunin has become what Boudreau calls the Wild’s “go-to line.”
Parise had one goal and two assists on Saturday, while Coyle and Kunin each had two assists. It was the Wild’s second consecutive victory after a 4-3 win on Thursday afternoon in Toronto. In that game, Coyle and Parise had a goal and an assist apiece, while Kunin had one assist.
After missing much of last season because of back surgery, Parise has had a fantastic season and leads the Wild with 19 goals. Kunin, recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League last month, spent the offseason rehabbing after suffering a torn ACL last March and began the season in the minors largely because of the injury. Coyle, meanwhile, has had another up-and-down season, but has played better since being moved from wing to center.
Parise has often found himself on the same line with center Mikko Koivu, but after looking at potential line combinations, Boudreau decided to make some changes.
“When you’re sitting down and you’re looking and you’re going, ‘OK, this would be a good complement to this,'” Boudreau told reporters after Saturday’s game. “I wanted to probably get the pace up a little more because all three of them can skate pretty well. So that was what it was.”
The interesting thing is that, for now, this trio is in no jeopardy of being broken up. On Saturday, Greenway found himself replacing Jason Zucker on Eric Staal’s line with Mikael Granlund. Zucker then was shifted to Koivu’s line. This is how Boudreau operates, often because it’s the only way he can get a spark from a team that too often starts slow and doesn’t capitalize on scoring chances.
The Wild fell behind 1-0 against Toronto only 7 seconds into Thursday’s game and were down 2-0 by the 5:38 mark of the first before Minnesota began to rally. On Saturday, the Wild looked awful in the first period and only trailed 1-0 after one because Devan Dubnyk played so well in goal. But then Boudreau made a few tweaks and the Wild, as so often is the case, responded.
But the line of Coyle, Kunin and Parise remained intact and Parise responded with a third-period goal that gave the Wild a 4-2 lead and proved to be the game-winner after Ottawa’s Mark Stone scored on a beautiful deflection that beat Dubnyk. That pulled the Wild within two points of the eighth and final wild card spot in the Western Conference entering Saturday night’s games.
“To me it’s like a little puzzle that all of a sudden fits,” Boudreau said when asked about playing Coyle, Kunin and Parise together. “Kunin’s legs are getting stronger and I think he’s playing a whale of a game, Charlie feels so much more comfortable at center and Zach is having the kind of year you think Zach’s usually accustomed to. So I think that line is going very well. If we can get the consistency out of the other lines, things will start looking up.”