Wild coach Dean Evason is adamant that he doesn’t number his lines.
Don’t ask him about it. You’ll get the same answer pretty much every time.
“It’s not one, two, three, four,” Evason said. “It’s who’s going.”
Maybe it isn’t coach speak after all. Though most people would classify the Zach Parise-Nico Sturm-Nick Bonino trio as the the fourth line, it might as well be the first line with how it’s performed over the past couple of weeks.
“It’s awesome,” Evason said. “They are working their butts off and competing.”
The most recent example of that came in Friday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings. With the Wild looking for an insurance goal late in the game, the so-called fourth line hopped over the boards and rose to the occasion with their best shift on the night.
It started with a solid forecheck by Parise, continued with a smart play by Bonino behind the net, and ended with Sturm crashing toward the crease to score a greasy goal.
“I’m really enjoying playing with them,” Bonino said. “I played with Sturmy for a good chunk of this year. You know he’s going to bring effort and strong D and strength on the wall. Then lately with Zach we’ve found some chemistry. He’s had so many points in this league. He’s so good offensively around the net. We seem to feed off each other and make plays together.”
It’s a perfect match as Sturm is content to do a lot of the dirty work, so Parise and Bonino can create with the puck.
“Just try to get the puck in those guys’ hands,” Sturm said. “They have played so many games and do all those little plays along the wall. I’m just trying to get the puck in their hands. It’s been fun so far.”
That depth scoring is the going to be huge for the Wild come the playoffs. That’s where players near the bottom of the lineup regularly alter the landscape of a series.
“I don’t think we’re surprised we’re scoring; I think we’re just a bit frustrated that it took so long,” Bonino said. “Obviously it’s going in a lot late. The chances are there and sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. For us, if we’re not scoring, try to be good defensively, try to win our faceoffs, try to get out of our zone, checked hard, create momentum. It’s always nice when the puck goes in.”
It certainly makes Evason’s job easier behind the bench.
“There’s different situations where we start lines in the offensive zone or defensive zone,” Evason said. “But we feel comfortable in both areas as far as understanding that line can score and that line can defend. It’s great for us to have to ability to put anybody on the ice that we want or we deem can get the job done.”