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Buddies Vanek, Pominville back on same line, for now

ST. PAUL -- Early in the second period of Minnesota's 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, Wild coach Mike Yeo changed his lines. "The way things were going, it just didn't have the right feel," Yeo said. So, for one of the few ti...

ST. PAUL - Early in the second period of Minnesota’s 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, Wild coach Mike Yeo changed his lines.
“The way things were going, it just didn’t have the right feel,” Yeo said.
So, for one of the few times in the 16 months Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have been Wild teammates, Yeo put the good friends together on a line.
In the next 15 minutes, the Wild scored four goals - two by Vanek - to take a 5-1 lead.
Now, as the Wild (9-3-2) prepare for Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., Yeo is contemplating keeping the longtime Buffalo Sabres teammates on the same line. He’s hoping the move might spark Pominville, who remains without a goal in 14 games.
After a sparsely attended optional practice Wednesday before the team flew to Carolina, Yeo said he hadn’t decided on the lines his team will use against the Hurricanes. But after eight seasons as teammates and linemates with the Sabres, Vanek and Pominville said they would be happy to be reunited.
“Sometimes I feel like he knows my game better than I know my own game,” Vanek said.
Vanek stole the spotlight Tuesday; his second goal came on a through-the-legs play that brought the fans at the Xcel Energy Center to their feet.
But late in the game, after Winnipeg pulled its goalie for an extra attacker, Vanek, one goal from a hat trick, sent a pass to Pominville rather than trying to complete a three-goal night. He said he would rather see his buddy end his scoring slump than complete the hat trick.
“I’ve struggled before,” Vanek said. “It’s not an easy thing. So I would much rather have him take one than me get the hat trick. I was fortunate enough to get one of those before, so it’s not that big of a deal for me.”
Yeo called the play unselfish.
“There’s nothing that brings together a team like selfless plays,” he said.
Yeo said Vanek and Pominville did not play well the few times he put them together last season. But as the Wild continue to play without Zach Parise, out with a sprained medial collateral ligament, Yeo might be more willing to give them another shot, perhaps hoping Vanek can help Pominville get back on track.
“I’m sure there is some chemistry there, but up until last night we haven’t really been able to tap into it,” Yeo said. “They haven’t spent a lot of time together. But hopefully it’s something they can keep building on.”
Last season, Vanek was the one off to the slow start, needing 22 games to score his first two goals with the Wild. So he understands Pominville’s frustration.
“What I tell him is it’s hard to play your game when you’re struggling,” Vanek said. “You want to contribute, but the good thing is we’re winning. It’s a lot better to struggle when your team is winning. It’s a lot harder to struggle when you’re losing.”
Vanek, meanwhile, built on his strong start Tuesday night.
His highlight-reel goal in the second period got the attention, but the Wild have been pleased with Vanek’s overall game. He ranks second on the Wild with six goals and 12 points.
“It doesn’t matter if a player is in his first year or 12th year, it’s amazing (the difference it makes) when a player gets off to a good start,” Yeo said. “And he got off to a good start in training camp. He had a pretty good start last year, too, but didn’t get the results. Once that happens, it’s amazing what it can do to a player’s psyche.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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