In desperate need of a spark on the power play, Wild coach Dean Evason scrapped everything and started all over.
That’s no exaggeration. While pretty much every team in the NHL puts as much firepower as possible on the power play, the Wild have gone against the grain as of late, simply rolling their regular lines when they have a man advantage.
In other words, if the first line of Joel Eriksson Ek centering Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala, or the second line of Victor Rask centering Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello can’t get the job done, the Wild have no problem sending the third line of Ryan Hartman centering Zach Parise and Marcus Foligno over the boards. Heck, even the fourth line of Nick Bonino centering Nico Sturm and Nick Bjugstad might get a chance in a pinch.
It worked last game as the Wild finally converted on the power play in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Ducks in Anaheim. The power play entered Monday’s game against the San Jose Sharks an abysmal 4 for 52 this season.
“Just because we scored one goal doesn’t mean we’re on fire here with it,” Evason said with a laugh. “We want to see the competitive level real high on our power play. We have challenged the group that each line will play in a given situation. As it sits tonight we’ll roll again, and hopefully we’ll have success again.”
This unorthodox strategy likely isn’t something the Wild will stick with all season. It seems like only a matter of time before they fall back into a more traditional approach of putting the top offensive players together and hoping it works itself out.
At some point, the prospect of Kaprizov and Fiala together on the power play will be too tempting to pass up. In the meantime, though, the Wild will try to build on their recent success by continuing to roll their regular lines.
“It wasn’t having success and we stayed with what we thought was going to give us an opportunity to have success and that didn’t work,” Evason said. “You just keep trying. You keep trying to tweak different things, and I think players are excited to have an opportunity to on any given situation to get out there.”
Addison sent down
As much as rookie defenseman Calen Addison impressed during short stint in the NHL last week, he recently was sent back to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
There simply wasn’t room on the roster for Addison with fellow defenseman Carson Soucy ready to return to the lineup.
But it is clear Addison left a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
“We saw a lot of potential,” Evason said. “We saw a lot of great things. He’s a young player, and we’ve talked about it before that hockey players need to play hockey. Especially young guys that are a part of our future. He conducted himself very well. We are comfortable if we have to put him in the lineup again.”
Goaltender Cam Talbot hasn’t started a game since Feb. 2 against the Colorado Avalanche. He missed a couple of weeks after testing positive for COVID, and now that he’s back with the team, he has been working tirelessly to get his timing back.
It appears Talbot is getting close to returning to action. In fact, Talbot was slated to be backup goalie for Monday’s game against the Sharks, while Kaapo Kahkonen was making his 10th start of the season.
Asked if there’s a chance Talbot gets to play in Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, Evason replied, “He’s a possibility. We’ll evaluate after tonight’s game.”