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At Even-Strength, Wild Searching For Offense

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

It's been rare this season for the Minnesota Wild to go on an offensive stretch like the one it is currently mired in.

If it can get out of this funk, it could go a long way in helping Minnesota try to climb back into its best-of-7 series against the Dallas Stars when it shifts to Saint Paul for Game 3 on Monday.

The Wild lost Games 1 and 2, at American Airlines Center, 4-0 and 2-1, respectively.

The lone Minnesota goal came with 7:18 remaining in the third period Saturday, on the power play, from Marco Scandella. It snapped a seven-game scoreless streak for the Wild's power play.

But Minnesota is in the midst of a different kind of drought, not producing an even-strength goal in the first two games of this series, something disconcerting to its head coach, but something the Wild feels is bound to happen very soon. 

"We haven't gotten the five-on-five goals, and then we've just got to get some more," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "We have to find a five-on-five gain. That’s the most important part moving forward. Their special teams has been their difference, and five-on-five has to be our difference tomorrow.”

It's uncommon for the Wild to go through this kind of slide. Through 84 games played this season, Minnesota has one other time been held without an even-strength goal for this length of time, going two games without one when it was shutout in consecutive games by the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators in mid-January.

That stretch also saw the Wild go three consecutive games without a five-on-five goal: The game prior to those shutouts, Minnesota lost 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres, scoring shorthanded and with its goalie pulled.

There are still things the Wild feels it can do better when each team has five skaters on the ice, like establishing more of a net-front presence, and attempting and getting even more shots on goal.

But as the Wild sees it, the bounces are bound to come its way soon enough as long as it continues to improve in the areas it's working toward.

"We've made adjustments like we said in certain areas," Torchetti said. "The neutral zone is one. It's getting more speed and support, but also getting pucks behind them.

"We still had 10 or 12 pucks that I thought we could do a better job of getting better puck possession time in the offensive zone."

With only one goal overall to show for its first 120 minutes of playoff hockey though, the Wild said it's obvious it can do more offensively.

"Guys are good at blocking shots and getting lanes," Jarret Stoll said. "(Kari) Lehtonen has played pretty well at times, but we haven’t tested him the way we need to test him. Just shooting from everywhere.

"You shoot from everywhere you get loose pucks. "When guys are shooting on [Devan Dubnyk] all the time, you don’t know where pucks are going. You don’t know what’s happening next."

Thus far, the Wild has produced 37 five-on-five shots on goal, and 76 attempts. In all, Dallas has blocked 24 of those.

Minnesota knows its first even-strength goal of the series doesn't have to be a Picasso, just one that counts on the scoreboard all the same.

"The film that I’ve seen, we got to do a better job of sticks presented on point shots," Torchetti said. "They do a good job of getting in lanes, they have three layers to it, and we have to do a better job of finding a stick and moving off our D shots, and getting a second rebound off a stick deflection.

"It has to be a greasy goal, there’s no doubt about it." We still have five or six guys that have to play a harder game."

Reilly Recalled

After what he described as two average games, defenseman Mike Reilly was assigned to the Iowa Wild prior the finish of Minnesota's regular season.

"I wasn’t going to play the Tuesday game against San Jose and probably not the Calgary game," Reilly said. "I got to play five games down there and get my rhythm back so if I do get thrown into a game — maybe tomorrow, I’m not sure —my rhythm is back and I could play.

Reilly was recalled on Sunday, and could make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut on Monday if he draws in for Game 3.

"We’re going over the lineup today and making a decision on that tomorrow and see what happens here," Torchetti said. "He's a great puck mover, can skate great, makes great decisions, and is good on the line."

Should Reilly play, his offensive upside could help a Wild team that has been searching for any kind of scoring spark over the past two weeks.

"Everyone knows [Dallas is] a fast paced team and feed off turnovers," Reilly said. "It was good for me to get some games, get some good minutes and play in every situation, and hopefully prepare me for a game I might be thrown into."

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