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Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 2:30 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild prepare for last game before Olympic break

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild play their final game before the Olympic break Thursday against the Nashville Predators and the focus is squarely on not losing focus. The Predators are playing well of late and trail the Wild by eight points in the Western Conference wild-card standings.

Nashville has one more game before the break, Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, to gain even more ground should they win Thursday.

"The way I look at it, they're probably approaching this game as their season," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "So we can't expect anything less than a playoff mentality from them. And that's the challenge that I presented to our players and said the exact same thing.

"They have another game after this. We have guys going to the Olympics, guys going on vacation. Can we be mentally tough enough to push those distractions aside and make sure that we bring the right focus, the right attitude into this game tonight?"

Posted On Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 1:26 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Parise returning to Wild lineup vs. Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise will return to the lineup Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks after missing 14 games with a fractured left foot.

Parise, who has been skating with teammates for several days, on Wednesday completed his second full-contact practice, a key step in getting back to the lineup. Wild coach Mike Yeo said then it would be up to Parise after the morning skate Thursday to decide whether he'd play against Chicago.

"Felt good again this morning so I think we're going to give it a shot," Parise said. "It's tough when you're watching games from the press box so I'm looking forward to it."

"We had a pretty good feeling he would be [back in the lineup] yesterday as long as he felt good again this morning," Yeo said. "Obviously we're very excited to have him back."

Posted On Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 3:15 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

As Stars continue slide, Ruff toys with lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It may be a bit cliche to use the "must-win" mantra in mid-January but things change quickly in the NHL.

Only 18 days ago the Dallas Stars were ahead of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division standings and had the added benefit of three games in hand.

But following a stretch of seven losses in eight games, Dallas now trails Minnesota by eight points heading into their game Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Stars play the Wild again Tuesday in Dallas but will lose one of their games in hand before then when they play the Nashville Predators on Monday. With that in mind Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the team needs to snap out of its 2014 funk now if it hopes to be a factor in the Stanley Cup Playoff race down the stretch.

Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 2:54 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Oilers' Hemsky sent home with ankle injury

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Edmonton Oilers forward Ales Hemsky was sent back to Edmonton on Thursday as the Oilers prepared to play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

The game against the Wild is Edmonton's third of a four-game road trip, meaning he also will miss the team's game Saturday at the Winnipeg Jets. His status beyond that is unknown.

Hemsky was hit in the ankle by a shot off the stick of teammate Luke Gazdic during the second period of the Oilers' game Tuesday at the Dallas Stars.

Initial reports issued by the team said there was no fracture in the ankle, but Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said Thursday the team was being cautious in confirming that diagnosis.

Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 2:32 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Scrivens, Hendricks in lineup for Oilers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In their first full day as Edmonton Oilers, goaltender Ben Scrivens and forward Matt Hendricks will play their first games with the team when the Oilers face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

For Scrivens, a native of Spruce Grove, Alberta, his trade Wednesday from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, allows him a chance to play for his hometown team. It also allows him his first true opportunity to win a starting job in the NHL.

"It was a little bit of a shock but I'd be lying if I didn't say it was something I was hoping for," Scrivens said of a trade out of Los Angeles. "It's going to be a fun experience playing back at home."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 2:39 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild's Harding practices with team

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding practiced with the team prior to the game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Harding has been out for two weeks due to illness.

Harding and the Wild have refused divulge whether his illness is related to his multiple sclerosis. He missed four games in December as doctors adjusted his medication for the disease.

"Wasn't feeling good, obviously," Harding said. "If I felt even a little bit like I could play, I would have. But there are some things that are out of my control."

Harding said he's been skating on his own for "three or four" days now, but Tuesday was seen as a major step toward getting him back in the lineup soon. Entering play Tuesday his 1.65 goals-against average is the best in the NHL and his .933 save percentage is second-best.

Posted On Saturday, 01.11.2014 / 2:00 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild captain Koivu discusses injury

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Walking on crutches after undergoing surgery on Monday to repair his fractured ankle, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu addressed the media for the first time since the injury.

Koivu was placed on injured reserve following the procedure, which Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said should expedite Koivu's recovery time. It is expected he will miss about four weeks.

Koivu was struck in the foot during the second period of the Wild's 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals seven days ago. He left the bench for a portion of the game but returned and actually assisted on two Ryan Suter goals a few minutes later. Koivu played a couple more shifts in the third period, but Wild coach Mike Yeo sent him back to the dressing room after seeing his captain in visible pain on the bench.

"I think every hockey player has [been hit by] a puck in the foot," Koivu said. "Obviously, the pain is not fun, but usually it goes away if you keep playing and keep the skate on. When I kind of realized it was worse than I thought, the pain got worse and worse. That's when I realized it was probably more than a bruise."

Koivu leads the Wild with 27 assists and 35 points this season and is also a valued member of the team's power play and penalty kill units. He ranks fourth among NHL forwards in ice time, averaging 21:34 a night, and his 55.7 winning percentage in the faceoff circle is one of the best in the League.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:03 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild lose Spurgeon, still without Harding

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for the foreseeable future after the team put him on injured reserve with a lower-body injury Saturday before the final game of a four-game homestand against the Washington Capitals.

Spurgeon, who elevated to the Wild’s top pairing with Ryan Suter earlier this week, was hurt while blocking a shot in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. He never missed a shift during the game but did not practice Friday, elevating concerns that he could be hurt.

With Spurgeon out, Wild coach Mike Yeo will reunite the pairing of Suter and Jonas Brodin, who have played together for much of the past two seasons. Nate Prosser will step into Spurgeon’s old role next to Marco Scandella on Minnesota’s second pairing. Prosser has two assists in 17 games this season but will add some size and grit.

"It’s a great opportunity for [Prosser]," Yeo said. In the past, he’s shown the kind of stability and defensive game that we need to go against top lines."

Posted On Thursday, 01.02.2014 / 2:16 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild place Konopka on waivers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With goaltender Josh Harding under the weather and the Minnesota Wild in need of a roster spot for an extra goalie, the Wild placed forward Zenon Konopka on waivers Thursday prior to the team's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

A gritty fourth-liner who excels in the faceoff circle, Konopka has one goal and one assist in 36 games. He's in the final season of a two-year contract and is making $925,000 this season.

Konopka leads the Wild with 55 penalty minutes and his 65.7-percent faceoff success rate is the best in the NHL among players to take at least 200 faceoffs.

Should Konopka clear waivers, the Wild would have the option of assigning him to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Coach Mike Yeo said he hasn't thought that far ahead, however.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 1:08 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues' Backes improving, but won't face Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- St. Louis Blues captain David Backes will miss his second consecutive game Tuesday when the Blues play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

A native of Minneapolis who played college hockey 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities at Minnesota State, Backes missed two games earlier this month with a concussion. He was injured Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks, missing a portion of the third period in a game the Blues won 5-4 in a shootout. The two injuries are not believed to be related.

Backes will miss his fourth game of the season Tuesday after missing only three games in his previous six seasons. He skated at the Blues' practice Monday and again Tuesday during their morning skate, but coach Ken Hitchcock said he will give him more time.

"Not going to play tonight, not ready to go," Hitchcock said. "He's feeling better and better, but he's not able to play. We're just not prepared to risk it right now."

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It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.

— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings
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