ST. PAUL --
For the Minnesota Wild
, much has been said and written about the their struggles to score goals lately. Even when things were going well early in the season, Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the League in total offense. Ever since things went bottom-up in mid-December, it's gotten worse.
Prior to the Wild's game Sunday against Calgary, Minnesota had been shut out in consecutive games at home for the first time in a decade.
Through 40 minutes against the Flames, the listless Wild appeared ready to make it a hat trick. Finally, Erik Christensen
scored back-to-back goals early in the third period Sunday, breaking a home shutout streak of over 160 minutes.
"We owe our fans a good game here," Wild coach Mike Yeo
said afterward. "This is too many games in a row where we've come out flat in our own building."
But the offense has only been a part of Minnesota's struggles. Yeo said his team has given up an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes the other way, including the game-winning tally Sunday night in a 4-3 loss to Calgary.
"The last two weeks, we've given up more 2-on-1s than we have all season," Yeo said. "It's something we used to pride ourselves on: We don't give up odd man rushes. Now, we're giving them up like crazy. It's not good enough."
For Yeo, he says his team can combat that by simply putting forth more effort. Too often, he says, his team has been caught flat-footed, and has paid for it.
"It's two goals in the last three games we've given up the exact same way and it should not happen," Yeo said. "It's a matter of urgency, being ready to back up our defensemen and a little bit of urgency that you're not going to allow the puck into the back of your net."
The 2-on-1s are just one aspect of the Wild's defensive game Yeo has been displeased with. Minnesota has made a habit of falling behind, and falling behind early. And although the Wild lead the League in victories when allowing the first goal, a vast majority of those wins came early in the season.
"For a team that has difficulty scoring goals, it makes it real tough trying to battle back the rest of the way," Yeo said. "We have to have more urgency on the defensive side of things and usually when you do that, over the course of the game, things tend to open up a bit more on the offensive side."
Yeo wasn't pleased with the effort of five or six guys Sunday night, hinting at a potential line-up shake-up this evening. That could come in the form of the return of winger Cal Clutterbuck
, who has missed the last several games with an undisclosed illness. He skated at the Wild's practice Monday and this morning's skate and is likely to return this evening.
Forward Nick Johnson
will be scratched this evening. Johnson, who represented the Wild in the All-Star Game skills challenge, hasn't played well lately and Yeo decided it's time to sit him down.
"I don't want to say we're making an example of him, but that's what it is right now. I didn't like his game last game," Yeo said.
On the injury front, Wild captain Mikko Koivu
has also been skating with the team the last couple of days, although his return this season -- if at all -- is still a ways off.
It would also be surprising to see either Pierre-Marc Bouchard
or Guillaume Latendresse
again this season, especially in light of the Wild's almost nonexistent playoff hopes at this point.