Coyle establishing himself with Wild

Coyle establishing himself with Wild
March 23, 2013, 9:45 am
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Charlie Coyle was the Sharks' first-round draft pick in 2010, but he never skated for them. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

INSIDE THE MATCHUP

- The Wild have won three consecutive games against the Sharks for the first time since a 4-game streak that came to an end in 2006.

- The Wild, who have scored nine power-play goals over their last nine games, have won four straight games by multiple goals for the first time in franchise history.

- After allowing five power-play goals over their first three games this season, the Sharks have allowed just nine power-play goals in their 26 games since. Their 90.0 penalty-kill percentage since January 25 is the highest in the Western Conference.

- The Wild (53.4) and Sharks (53.1) rank second and third, respectively, this season in faceoff win percentage.

- Former Shark and current Wild winger Devin Setoguchi has scored six goals over his last five games.

- Logan Couture has scored a pair of goals in two of his last four games, after doing so just once over his previous 38 games.

ST. PAUL – It didn't take very long for Charlie Coyle to experience the first real surprise of his NHL career.

One year after getting picked in first round (28th overall) by the Sharks at the 2010 NHL Draft, Coyle was a key piece in a blockbuster trade with Minnesota. Along with Devin Setoguchi and a first round pick in the 2011 draft, Coyle went to the Wild in exchange for Brent Burns and second round pick in 2012.

“I was pretty shocked at the time, I didn’t even play in an NHL game or anything like that,” Coyle said on Saturday morning before the Wild-Sharks game at Xcel Energy Center. “It was pretty unexpected. It was pretty different, and kind of an unusual thing. I don’t think that happens a lot.”

He took solace in the notion that while one team was sending him away, another wanted his services. At the time, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said: “There’s no way this deal gets done with Charlie not in it.”

“As I learned more about it, I noticed that [Minnesota] liked me, and it gave me confidence in myself to make this roster one day,” Coyle said. “Now, I’m doing that, so I’m just trying to play my game.”

Coyle looks like he’s found a spot on the Wild's roster, and is playing right wing on the team’s top line with offseason addition Zach Parise and center Mikko Koivu. In 18 games, Coyle has three goals and three assists for six points. All of those points have come in the last 13 games, when he was recalled from the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Houston for the second time in late February.

While Setoguchi has provided scoring depth for Minnesota with 20 points (11g, 9a) in 29 games, Coyle could be the player that the Sharks regret dealing more than anyone. In a trade that already looks bad for San Jose, if Coyle pans out as a consistent power forward, it could come to be viewed as an utter disaster. The Sharks already traded away the second round pick they got from Minnesota for Dominic Moore last February, which did not pan out. That leaves Burns, who was supposed to be the long-term replacement for Dan Boyle, but is instead now lining up as a forward. Burns has two goals and four assists in five games up front.

[RELATED: Sharks look to stop old friends, streaking Wild]

That's of no concern to Coyle, though, who will face the team that drafted him for the first time in his career on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m just going to treat it like any other game,” he said. “I’m not going to put too much focus on anything like that. But, it’s just another team and another game. We’ve been doing pretty good so far, so we’re just going to work for another win and do that.”

Is there at least a little piece of him that would like to stick it to the club that dealt him?

“I guess there could be,” Coyle said. “Nothing over the top, and like I said, I’m not going to focus on anything, but yeah, I think there might be. I think anyone who’s played for a team and has been traded or anything like that, there might be a little drive inside to, like you said, stick it to them or something. Nothing major or anything, just going to go out and play another game, and do what I do.”

Mitchell faces Sharks for first time

The Sharks weren’t interested in retaining Torrey Mitchell’s services after the end of the last season, so Mitchell signed a three-year, $5.7 million year contract with the Wild in the offseason.

Saturday is the first of three games between the two teams, and Mitchell said in the morning he was anxious to play. He has lately been skating on the fourth line right wing with Zenon Kenopka and Jason Zucker.

“I’m excited to play against them, that’s for sure,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got a lot of good memories from San Jose, and a couple good buddies over there. I’m excited to play, that’s for sure, but glad to get it over with.”

Mitchell is one of the lower profile players on the Wild in terms of newcomers, as Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter signed monster long-term contracts in the offseason. In 27 games, Mitchell has two goals and two assists.

The Wild have won six of seven games, and after taking a bit of time to gel at the start of the shortened season, look like a contender. The Sharks, on the other hand, are barely hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot.

“We’re playing well. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but the last 10 games, even the losses could have gone either way. The last game we lost (2-1 in Anaheim on March 12) should have gone our way. But, we’re doing the right things and playing well.”

“It’s a good team, and I’m happy to play and get a fresh start with this group of guys, so it’s been fun. So far, so good.”