After a home-and-home series with the Detroit Red Wings in which the Wild pulled out 2 out of a possible 4 points, a grueling stretch now awaits Minnesota as they go on the road for four of its next five games. Despite struggling overall as of late, several players made huge strides in their level of play, some for the better and others for the worse.
The power forward was all over the ice this weekend and looked exactly the way the Wild will need him to play down the stretch. Playing on a line with Matt Moulson and Mikko Koivu, Coyle struggled to adjust to his new linemates at first. In his past 2 games, he has responded by playing as well as he has all year. If you’ll remember, Coyle figured to have a breakout season after a stellar training camp. All of that was derailed with an injury at the beginning of the season which set him back and he has been quite inconsistent all season. Both Saturday and Sunday, Coyle played as if he were fighting for a roster spot. After a nifty penalty shot goal and a plus-1 performance on Saturday, he saw his ice time increase dramatically Sunday, responding with a goal, an assist, and went plus-2. Coyle will be important down the stretch as he is the key to rounding out the second line.
Spurgeon has played some of his best hockey in Minnesota since being paired with Ryan Suter on defense. He has become a more versatile defenseman and added more offense to his game since he returned from injury. His statistics may not have shown it this weekend as he only had 1 assist, but he showed little doubt that he is capable of shutting down the opposing team’s top lines with Suter. At 5’9, he is likely the smallest defenseman in the NHL, but he makes up for it with a great puck skills and a surprisingly heavy shot from the point.
After a fantastic performance in which he earned a shutout against the New York Islanders, Bryzgalov has struggled as of late. He has posted a .838 save percentage in his past two games and been beat on his blocker side numerous times. If not for the determined effort by his team against the Devils and more recently the Red Wings, both games could have gotten ugly. On point with the overall trend of the Minnesota Wild this season, Bryzgalov’s inconsistency will be worth watching leading up to the playoffs.
Heatley has been nearly nonexistent for Minnesota since the Olympic break, collecting a goal and 2 assists in the past 13 games. His role has diminished since the acquisition of Matt Moulson, and he hasn’t shown the hunger to regain his position in the lineup since being replaced on the second line. Heatley is likely aware that his time in Minnesota is coming to an end. If the former 50-goal scorer wants to show teams he still has what it takes to play in the NHL next year, a little hustle on the forecheck would be a nice start.