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Charlie Coyle’s return means Wild coach can begin banishing slumping forwards

Apr 16, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) handles the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL – Bruce Boudreau elected to scratch Chris Stewart on Monday night in order to get Charlie Coyle back in the lineup for the first time in 16 games. But the Wild coach made it clear after his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey at Xcel Energy Center that there were a few forwards he could have banished to the press box.

“We could have sat four or five guys out,” Boudreau said after watching the Devils’ John Moore score 52 seconds into the extra session. “Stewie was the one that drew the short straw in my mind today. He’s a guy that we need to play better, just like there are other guys on this team who need to play better consistently.”

This came after the Wild got two third-period goals from Mikael Granlund to tie the score. Those were only Granlund’s second and third goals of the year. Nino Niederreiter scored his sixth of the season in the second period to tie the score 1-1.

In the past seven games, Wild forwards have combined for 16 goals but all have come from either Jason Zucker (eight), Niederreiter (four), Eric Staal (two) and Granlund (two).

That lack of goal production from other forwards was a big reason Coyle was put back in the lineup on Monday without having gone through a full practice.

Coyle broke his right fibula on Oct. 12 at Chicago and it was expected he would miss six-to-eight weeks. “I thought he had tons of energy in the first period but you could see he was getting a little bit tired as the game went on,” Boudreau said. “But he’s going to be a big help for us.”

Coyle opened the game playing on the fourth line with center Matt Cullen and left wing Tyler Ennis, but eventually saw time on the power play and was moved to a line with Zucker and Staal by the third period.

As far as putting Coyle back on the ice without a full practice, Boudreau wasn’t concerned because of Coyle’s conditioning. “He’s in phenomenal shape,” he said. “I figured we could throw him into the fray right away. I sat there and said, ‘I’ll only play him eight to 10 minutes,’ but that usually goes awry when you’re losing.”

Coyle, who had no goals and two assists in three games before suffering his injury, ended up playing 17 minutes, 25 seconds on Monday and was credited with no shots and two hits. “I look at it as if you’re out there you can’t make excuses,” Coyle said when asked about not having a practice. “You’re 100 percent when you’re playing. That’s how I went about it and, like I said, we lose, I’ve got to give a little more.”

It will be interesting to see which Wild forward lands in the press box on Wednesday in Buffalo.

Stewart was scratched after taking a penalty that angered Boudreau in a 3-1 loss Saturday at Washington. Stewart got off to a hot start, scoring six goals in his first six games, but had no goals in his past 13 games.

But Boudreau’s frustration Monday went beyond any one player and was based on the fact that the Wild again had to trail in a game before waking up and attempting to rally. In the Wild’s previous home game, they trailed Nashville 4-2 in the third period before scoring the final four goals.

“I wish I had the answer for that,” Boudreau said when asked about his team’s penchant for falling behind. “It takes a kick in the butt to get us going sometimes. We talk about self-preparation all the time but it was one of those things today. They get two in off us in the beginning, and I think we’ve had that a lot in the first 20 games here. We go in spurts but we don’t go in 60 minutes. Until we learn to go in 60 minutes we’re not going to get too far.”


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