Whatever coach Mike Yeo said to Nino Niederreiter during a brief conversation on Monday morning — or how he said it — appears to have worked. After going 15 consecutive games without a goal, the Wild power winger had his best game in weeks later against the Dallas Stars, scoring his first goal since Nov. 14, adding an assist and was plus-3.
Niederreiter built on that Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens by assisting on Charlie Coyle’s winning goal.
“He knows the game, he knows our game,” Yeo said of the chat he had with Niederreiter. “It’s not a matter of care, it’s not a matter of effort. It’s just he’s heavy between the ears right now. Pretty simple conversation — just trust your instincts, play the game and have fun doing it.”
Yeo said when you close your eyes and envision Niederreiter’s best game, it’s when he’s moving his feet, flying in on the forecheck, playing physically and crashing the net.
“But what happens when you’re thinking too much — you play a little bit slower, and you start second guessing yourself,” Yeo said. “He knows what his best game looks like. He knows what he’s doing when he’s playing well and being effective.”
Niederreiter says the three-day holiday break Wednesday through Friday probably comes at a good time for him. His sister is about to give birth, so unfortunately none of his family is coming to Minnesota. But he said it’s a good time to lay low, relax and “stop thinking for a while. I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m just thinking too much lately. I think that’s the problem at the moment for me.
“The biggest thing is learning that you shouldn’t think about it [when you’re in a slump]. But that’s the toughest part.”
Haula back in
Chris Porter could have played through his lower-body injury Tuesday, but his not being 100 percent gave Yeo the ability to play Erik Haula, who had been scratched in three straight games.
“He’s defended well, his penalty killing has been stronger here the last little bit, I think he had a pretty good series of plays in the San Jose game and even the game before he came out,” Yeo said of Haula. “But the message to him was just, ‘You haven’t done quite enough to ensure you don’t come out of the lineup.’ I’d like to see him play at the level he was playing at and doing the things he was doing, and then maybe add on a little more.”
The Wild has shown hefty interest in Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, and one reason is because Mikael Granlund continues to aggravate the Wild braintrust at times.
He entered Tuesday’s game with 16 points in his past 20 games, but he passes up shots and doesn’t score at the rate of a top centerman.
“When [Granlund’s] on top of his game, you can see a guy that’s playing very fast, he’s playing confident, he’s making plays,” Yeo said.
“I think he’s still a young player who’s … he faces the toughest matchups night after night, which is not easy for any player, especially when you’re trying to create.
“He’s kind of on the bubble right now of showing that he can be a full-time producer, but he’s still struggling to learn how to do it a little bit.”
• Wild prospect Louis Belpedio, a defenseman at Miami (Ohio), was named an alternate captain on the United States national team for the upcoming world junior championships in Helsinki, Finland. Michigan defenseman Zach Werensk is the team’s captain.
• Defenseman Mike Reilly, who still hasn’t made his NHL debut, was sent back to Iowa of the AHL.