WILD: Koivu to be reunited on line with Heatley, Stetoguchi
ST. PAUL Barring a setback to Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo will reunite Koivu on a line with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for Minnesota's game against the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. It's about scoring, ...
Barring a setback to Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo will reunite Koivu on a line with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for Minnesota's game against the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the Xcel Energy Center.
It's about scoring, sorely needed by a team that has just three goals in its past three games and ranks 29th in the NHL with 2.21 goals a game.
Heatley and Setoguchi, acquired from the San Jose Sharks during the summer to deliver instant offense, began the season Oct. 8 on Koivu's wings and, despite injuries to Koivu and Setoguchi and brief dry spells for that line, Yeo has always been quick to put the three back together.
Koivu, who missed Minnesota's past eight games, took part in a full workout Wednesday and said he feels the best he has since his left shoulder was injured on Jan. 14. The Wild expect him to come off injured reserve today; they placed forward Jed Ortmeyer on waivers so he can be sent to Houston of the American Hockey League today if that happens.
Yeo also split up Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson even though that line has been Minnesota's most consistent.
"We have to make sure with Mikko coming back -- he's such an important part of the team -- that we surround him the right way," Yeo said. "Putting him with Seto and Heater gives us a chance to get that line going."
Heatley leads Minnesota with 17 goals and 38 points in 53 games, while Koivu's 33 points in 41 games ranks second. Heatley has four goals, four assists and 26 shots on goal in his past six games.
Although Heatley has been hot, Setoguchi has not.
Yeo dropped Setoguchi to a line with Erik Christensen and Darroll Powe in the Wild's 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and said Setoguchi responded by using his speed to produce at least two decent scoring chances. Before that, he tried Setoguchi on a line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck without much luck; Setoguchi has just two goals and three assists in his past 12 games.
It's time to move on, Yeo said.
"I want Seto, his season, to start right now," the coach said. "He's such an important part of our group. He's played some really good hockey for us at different points of the season. I just want him to get back in the lineup, play with Mikko, play with Heater and don't have any hesitation whatsoever in your game."
After totaling 22 goals and 19 assists in 72 games for San Jose last season, Setoguchi knows more is expected from him than his current 10 goals and eight assists through 40 games.
"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said. "What's happened has happened already. We've got 29 or 30 games left where I just have to do my best every game. Consistently play the right way and help the team out in as many ways as I can."
Setoguchi is eager for Koivu's return.
"He's irreplaceable," he said. "It's good to have him back in the lineup, on the power play, on the penalty kill. He's all over the ice, and that's what he does so well; he's a key player in every aspect of the game."
Koivu said fans need to be patient and should not expect instant sparks from Heatley, Setoguchi and him.
Still, he understands his assignment.
"It's our job to be good offensively and create momentum for our team," he said, "and obviously score some goals, as well."
Yeo and Koivu talked about how the Wild have reason for optimism with 18 of their final 29 games of the season at the Xcel Energy Center. They just completed a stretch of 19 of 27 games on the road, including eight without Koivu, and went into Wednesday night's games still eighth in the NHL's Western Conference.
"We're going to have to earn what we get," Yeo said, "but I think we find ourselves in a pretty good position right now."
Injured Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse and Jarod Palmer remain out indefinitely. Clayton Stoner is sidelined "week to week," Yeo said.
But the return of Koivu can't be underestimated.
"He's our captain," Brodziak said. "He's the leader of our team. It's something that everyone's excited about."
Distributed by MCT Information Services