WINNIPEG – Wild center Charlie Coyle would have rather postponed his first goal of the season and instead celebrated two points for the team.
“I could go all season without scoring as long as we win,” he said. “I think everyone would say the same thing.”
But his score wasn’t just a footnote in a 6-3 loss to the Blues on Saturday.
It was his first goal since his return from a right fibula fracture suffered in the third game of the season, a sign that the versatile forward is getting more comfortable on the ice.
And that’s plenty significant to the Wild.
“Charlie’s another one of those guys we lean on and rely on and one of those top-six forwards that you need for scoring,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’re not a big scoring team five-on-five recently. So when you can get Charlie going, it adds to the mix that we need.”
Coyle reappeared in the Wild lineup last Monday after missing 16 games while recovering from the injury and subsequent surgery. He hasn’t had an issue with the leg, but getting back to game speed has been a focus and he’s felt more and more like himself each game he’s played. And despite missing a chunk of the season, he hasn’t lowered his ambitions.
The 25-year-old still wants to hunt out better scoring positions on the ice and increase his shot output.
“I expect a lot out of myself, so I’m just trying to play up to [my] capabilities,” Coyle said.
Not only are Coyle’s contributions around the net essential to the Wild, but his versatility, work ethic and unique combination of size and speed are also valuable attributes.
“He’s in tremendous shape,” Boudreau said. “He works as hard as any player I’ve ever seen work. He can play right wing. He can play left wing. He can play center. He played the point on the power play last game for us. He’s a guy that never complains about anything, just, ‘Where do you want me to play, Coach?’ — the kind of players coaches love to have.”
The Wild added another option on defense before Monday’s game, recalling Ryan Murphy from Iowa of the American Hockey League.
Murphy, 24, made his team debut against the Jets, while Jared Spurgeon missed the game due to a groin strain. It was Spurgeon’s first absence of this season. He has been a rock on the blue line, averaging 25 minutes, 39 seconds in ice time and skating a career-high 31:06 last week against Colorado.
As for Murphy, he joined the Wild after chipping in 11 points in 18 games with Iowa while ranking second on the team in assists (10). Her signed with the Wild during the summer as a free agent. He was originally drafted 12th overall in 2011 by the Hurricanes, for whom he played in 151 NHL games over five seasons.
Murphy, a righthanded shot, wore No. 6 and was paired with Gustav Olofsson. Ryan Suter worked with Jonas Brodin and Kyle Quincey lined up next to Matt Dumba in a new-look defense.
Production on the PK
Coyle’s breakaway shot Saturday was the Wild’s league-leading fifth shorthanded goal, a silver lining for a penalty kill that yielded three power-play goals in the game.
Offense isn’t the priority when the unit is on the ice, but it’s on the team’s radar to capitalize when an opportunity presents itself.
“We wanna get back to making the kill,” Boudreau said. “If something pops up, like Charlie getting a pass from somebody, somebody falling down and getting a breakaway, so be it. But let’s get the kill first.”