Wild might have to start Marco Rossi in Game 1 of playoffs next week. Is he ready?
His mistake since being recalled from the minors also happens to be his biggest sign of growth.
NASHVILLE — Marco Rossi’s biggest mistake since being recalled from the minors also happens to be his biggest sign of growth.
In his highly anticipated NHL return earlier this week, Rossi tried to spring Ryan Hartman with an aggressive pass through the neutral zone. It resulted in a turnover for the Wild, and a few seconds later, the Chicago Blackhawks cashed in on the other end for an easy goal.
Though it wasn’t the right play at the time, and it’s something that has since been corrected, Wild coach Dean Evason was actually encouraged by Rossi’s decision.
“He tried,” Evason said. “Do we want him to make a cross-ice sauce pass? No. Did he have the confidence to do it? Yeah.”
That’s a good sign as Rossi tries to establish himself as a regular in the NHL. His confidence was nowhere to be found earlier this season as he struggled to produce after making the team out of training camp. Those struggles were enough to get Rossi sent down to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League for more seasoning. He suited up for 51 games down in Des Moines, racking up 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists), and playing in pretty much every situation imaginable.
That experience should help him now that he’s back with the Wild, who play their regular-season finale on Thursday at Nashville.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Rossi said. “This is where I want to be.”
The biggest thing for Rossi is finding a way to drive the play whenever he’s on the ice. He was a passenger far too many times during his stint in the NHL earlier this season, seemingly waiting for his teammates to make something happen shift in and shift out.
“I think I was playing too safely,” he said. “Now, I’m going to play with a lot of confidence and try to make more plays.”
That was on display earlier this week, and while Rossi coughed up the puck in the process, Evason wants to see that type of aggressiveness moving forward. Just maybe not in that exact situation.
“He’s trying to make a play,” Evason said. “He’s trying to play how Marco Rossi plays.”
After playing 12 minutes, 47 seconds against the Blackhawks on Monday night at the United Center, Rossi saw his ice time take a dip against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center. He ended up only logging 8:37 minutes against the Jets, the drop coinciding with Sam Steel leaving the game due to illness.
“We got shorted with Steely going out,” Evason said. “The lines were a little bit all over the place, and there was no flow in that regard.”
That said, Rossi continued to show improvement in his limited ice time, a good sign considering the Wild might have to play him when the playoffs start next week.
As much as it looked as if Steel had the inside track to play in Game 1, after Marcus Johansson took a cross check directly to the ribs, it’s looking like Rossi might have to be thrust into action, as well.
Is he ready? That remains to be seen.
“My confidence is back up,” Rossi said. “I know what I have to do different.”
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