Expect the unexpected

With Lemaire in charge, Wild will have plenty of line changes

By Michael Russo

Star Tribune

DENVER — When the Wild visited Calgary three weeks ago, Jacques Lemaire hitched a ride to the game on the media bus.

"Want to see my lines for tonight?" the Wild coach asked.


Lemaire pulled out a legal-sized piece of paper, folded in half. He then flashed what looked to be 30 line combinations: 17-38-10; 12-9-96;24-67-10; 17-38-96; 11-15-24; 19-9-92; 12-15-10 — to name a few!

There were so many numbers, the sheet could have doubled as Lemaire’s Powerball picks.

As any astute Wild fan knows — and as every Wild player knows all too well and the Avalanche will soon realize when the puck drops for Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals tonight — about the only person who could create more line combinations out of 12 forwards is an MIT mathematician.

How many line combinations can be created using 12 forwards?

"I can’t figure that out. I’m not that smart, but I bet Jacques’s close," center Eric Belanger said.

Told it’s 1,320, Belanger said, "Thirteen hundred? Think he has that much?"

Yeah, and he probably hits it by the second period.

Even among his colleagues, Lemaire is famous for tossing jersey numbers into a hat and unveiling weird new concoctions throughout games.


Before a Wild-Vancouver game in February, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was asked how he planned to match up against the Wild. Vigneault rolled his eyes and quipped, "As you know, Jacques has about 2,000 line combinations in a game, so . . ."

As an experiment, that night, Lemaire’s lines were recorded. By midway through the first period, more than a dozen line combinations were used.

So pay attention tonight because Lemaire typically scrambles his lines more on the road in order to get the right matchup and combat the fact the home team has the last line change (during stoppages, the visiting team must put its players on the ice before the home team, enabling the home team to get the matchup it prefers).

It has worked in the playoffs — Lemaire is 30-24 all-time on the road.

Page D4:Series tied at 1-1.

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