Yeo: Wild ‘certainly loaded up’ top PP unit


When it comes to discussing his top-heavy power play, Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t beating around the bush.

“I think that we certainly loaded up that top unit,” Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “That’s a very talented group.”

The Wild opened camp with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley up front, joined by Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville on the points (the latter having played that role during his time in Buffalo.)

It’s a skillful quintet, to say the least.

Heatley’s a former 50-goal man, Parise’s a former 40-goal man, Suter finished sixth among all NHL d-men in power play assists last year, Koivu led the Wild in PP assists in 2008-09 and Pominville led the Sabres in PP assists in 2007-08.

If it sounds like the Wild are putting an extra emphasis on the man advantage this year, well, that’s because they are.

Minnesota operated at a 17.9 percent clip last season — 16th in the league — and that number was a disappointment considering the club added two key fixtures in the offseason in Suter and Parise.

Suter led the Wild in power play time on ice per game average (3:46) and Parise was third, with 3:25.

To pick things up, the club promoted Andrew Brunnette to a power-play consultant role in August.

[Brunette’s] an invaluable resource,” Yeo explained. “Our power play had the opportunity to be a lot better last year than it was.

“We were sixth in the league in total power-play shots on goal. That tells you we’re just not doing enough to score goals.”

Brunette is highly qualified for the PP gig. He was already working in Minnesota’s hockey ops department and is  barely removed from playing (was with Chicago in 2011-12).

He also made his mark during his playing career as a PP specialist.

Brunette scored 114 power play goals during his career and was a deft setup man as well, tying Joe Sakic for Colorado’s team-lead in power play assists in 2006-07, with 27.

With all these changes in place, Yeo figures the Wild are ready to become a great PP team.

“I think we’re ready to take a step,” he explained. “Let’s improve on top of that, let’s be one of the elite teams in the league. If you can do that, then that would be a huge contributing factor to the success of the team.”

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?