As Wild slump reaches six games, Koivu sticks up for coach Yeo


Remember yesterday when we wrote the Wild could really use a win? Well, they didn’t get one, falling 2-1 to St. Louis for their sixth consecutive loss.

Is it time for head coach Mike Yeo to go? Depends who you ask, but captain Mikko Koivu wasn’t willing to pin any of the team’s slump on the bench boss.

“It’s our job to play the game,” said Koivu, per the StarTribune. “It’s not systems, it’s not coaching. It’s on us. The system works. We have to be better. We didn’t change as players and a team in two, three weeks. We have it here. It’s a matter of how we execute. We can’t worry what’s going on around us. We’ve got to get better as a team, and we will.”

Koivu’s message was similar to the one general manager Chuck Fletcher gave recently, when he said: “If every time you have a five-game winning streak or a five-game losing streak you start to overreact either way, you’re going to be in trouble in this business.”

Still, it’s never a good sign for a coach when the local newspapers are listing his potential replacements.

Minnesota hosts Buffalo tomorrow and Washington Saturday.

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.