Charlie Coyle knows what it means to take center stage.
With Minnesota Wild teammates Eric Fehr out with an illness and captain Mikko Koivu sidelined with a knee injury midway through the first period Tuesday night, Coyle had to move from the wing to center at Buffalo.
Coyle had a goal and the primary assist on Zach Parise's score in the final 90 seconds of regulation as the Wild earned a point in the 5-4 shootout loss.
"You just gotta turn your brain on and make sure you're doing the right things at your position," Coyle told NHL.com. "It's not ideal, obviously, but it wasn't like I was thinking too much about it, you just do it. And I've done it enough, so I can kind of step into it. I felt good for the most part."
Coyle might need to stay at center Thursday when the Wild plays host to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. While Fehr is expected to return, Koivu is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his knee.
"It's not the greatest situation to be in, he's such a huge part (of our team) on the ice, in the locker room... he's our leader," Coyle said of Koivu. "You can't really replace him.
"But we have guys who can step up. It's some adversity to overcome but we're looking forward to the challenge."
Coyle, who got off to a slow start this season, was shifted to center last month and played well on a line with Parise and Luke Kunin. But Coyle was returned to the wing when Minnesota acquired center Victor Rask from Carolina.
"He accepts the role and I think he likes playing with Zach," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Coyle. "In a perfect world, you have five centers every game playing for reasons like this. Mikko gets hurt and you need him to step in."
Parise also praised Coyle.
"Charlie did a really good job filling in. He's pretty versatile," Parise told NHL.com.
The Wild, with a 1-0-2 record since the All-Star break, will be facing an Oilers team that has matched a season high with six consecutive losses.
The last might have been the most painful, as the Oilers took a lead into the third period at home Tuesday before surrendering five goals to the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-2 defeat. Four of those goals were scored in a span of less than three minutes.
"Same type of thing as the last couple of games. We control a lot of the first two (periods), and then go to sleep in the third," said McDavid, the Oilers' captain. "I'm not sure what that is. We can talk all we want. We've just got to find a way to grab (the game) when it's going like that."
Leon Draisaitl scored both goals for Edmonton. Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom returned to the lineup after missing 21 games with a broken finger on his left hand.
"It was not our best effort. Not even close to good enough," Klefbom told NHL.com. "We left our goalies out to dry multiple times, and it's not good enough -- simple as that."
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