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Who’s the first line? Who’s the fourth line? For the Wild, it doesn’t matter

On paper, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu has been playing predominating fourth line center for the first time in his ...

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Minnesota Wild players celebrate a goal in the second period Friday, Feb. 28, against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Jason Mowry / USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On paper, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu has been playing predominating fourth line center for the first time in his career.

While it was undoubtedly a hard pill to swallow initially, Koivu has made the most of his current situation, especially over the past week.

Flanked by skilled wingers Ryan Donato and Ryan Hartman, Koivu had a pair of goals in Tuesday’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and a pair of assists in Thursday’s win over the Detroit Red Wings.

"Is it a fourth line? I don’t know," goaltender Alex Stalock said. "Every line brings something different. Everybody’s chipping in. It’s fun to be a part of right now."

Asked his thoughts on the lineup, interim coach Dean Evason made it clear the Wild are trying to buck the trend of having a first line, second line, third line and fourth line.

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"Every line is the same," Evason said. "Obviously some lines play more than others. But a lot of that is because of power play and stuff like that. Ideally, we would love to roll all four lines and have everybody play the same way each and every night."


That means the first line of Eric Staal centering Gerald Mayhew and Kevin Fiala, and the second line of Joel Eriksson Ek centering Zach Parise and Jordan Greenway have the same responsibilities of the third line of Alex Galchenyuk centering Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello, and fourth line of Koivu centering Donato and Hartman.

"Our system is the same for all four lines," Evason said. "We don’t say, ‘You go score. You go check.’ Everybody is trying to score goals. We all want to score. And if we can continue to have that balance, which clearly we’ve had, then there’s no difference."

That balance has manifested itself on the ice as the Wild have gotten contributions from up and down the lineup as of late.

"It’s very nice," Fiala said. "Just everybody is so happy for each other. You know, we’re a big family here, we can feel that. We are so happy no matter who makes a point."

 

Stalock's milestone

With his start in Thursday’s game against the Red Wings, Stalock unceremoniously passed goaltending coach Bob Mason to move into sixth place on the all-time list for NHL games played by a goaltender born in Minnesota.

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He added to that total in Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets and has now suited up for 147 games between the pipes.

While there’s a chance the South St. Paul native cracks the top five by the end of his career, there’s no chance he tops Eveleth native Frank Brimsek, who played in 514 games.

Bartkowski recalled

 Matt Bartkowski was recalled from the minors ahead of Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets, providing the Wild some added insurance on the blue line.


"We have some guys banged up," Evason said. "We needed a defenseman up in the event that some guys that are banged up can’t play."

That wasn’t the case, as Bartkowski was a healthy scratch for the game.

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