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Yeo: Wild ‘certainly loaded up’ top PP unit

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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.”

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

torchettiiowa
via Iowa Wild
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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)