Wild give Bitetto a boost and an opportunity
ST. PAUL -- The Wild’s two newest contributors were on the move again during an intense practice Monday, Feb. 11, at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul.
Victor Rask, a center acquired from Carolina for Nino Niederreiter on Jan. 17, was playing wing with center Joel Erikkson Ek and forward Luke Kunin on the third line, and defenseman Anthony Bitetto was promoted to the second defensive pairing alongside Jonas Brodin.
“He’s just big and he plays physical and he plays hard,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Bitetto, who was playing sparingly in Nashville before being claimed on waivers last month.
Greg Pateryn was moved to the third paring with Aaron Seeler.
Bitetto, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, has averaged more than 15 minutes of ice time in four games in Minnesota, recording no points but seven shots on goal.
“It’s not a perfect situation for him; he’s been a seventh or eighth in Nashville,” Boudreau said. “But we’re giving him the opportunity to see how good he can be, and if he takes it and runs with it, great, we’ve got a good situation. If he doesn’t, then we’ll move and find something else.”
Rask played his past three games as a center, moving from the second line in a 4-1 loss to Edmonton last Thursday to the fourth line in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Islanders in New York.
The third line arguably had been the Wild’s best since Eriksson Ek was called up to take the roster spot of injured center Mikko Koivu on Feb. 6. Eriksson Ek and wingers Kunin and Jason Zucker have combined for three goals and seven points in those three games, but Zucker was moved to the top line with center Erik Staal and right wing Jordan Greenway for Monday's practice.
“(Eriksson Ek) and Kunin have been our best players for the last week, so, I mean, that’s great,” Boudreau said. “We need that youthful exuberance and youthful energy, and they’ve got it. Hopefully they will continue to bring it for us.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk played back-to-back games over the weekend, both afternoon starts and both solid performances, giving up a combined four goals on 52 shots in a victory over the Devils and loss to the Islanders.
He appears set to start again Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at Xcel Energy Center.
“Right now, we need wins and Duby’s our No. 1 guy and we’re going to see how it goes,” Boudreau said.
Since moving to center on Saturday, Mikael Granlund has a point in two games, just his third goal since mid-October. He practiced there again between Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. “I asked him this morning, he said he liked it, so that’s where we’re at,” Boudreau said.