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Determined To Bust Slump, Wild Returns To Practice

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild returned to the ice for practice on Monday after one of its most disappointing losses of the season. Both Head Coach Mike Yeo and players were blunt with assessing the team's performance of late, but the overall message was, this is something that can get turned around.

"Now we're looking for leadership; we need leaders," Ryan Suter said. "Coaching staff, players, we need people that are going to lead.

"It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other, you have to come together and dig out of this. Now is when you need leadership more than ever. It's easy to coach and be a leader when things are going good."

Practice began with an impassioned speech from Yeo to his players, and then a hard skate that emphasized the defensive zone.

"It was not designed to be a fun practice, and this is what winners do," Yeo said. "It's about looking in the mirror, and we're not good enough right now. It's about some harsh reality, and that's not fun; it's not fun to hear; it's not fun to accept, but winners respond."

Yeo's message has remained consistent throughout the season. While results are very important, building the team's game and following the process is paramount.

"You build a game that you play consistently, and that will deliver the results," Yeo said. "You build a game consistently that will give you the habits that when you get into that playoffs that, when he heat is on, and you're not able to think, you're able to respond and be performing the right way."

After the loss against the Stars, Yeo said the Wild needed to play to its system better. And after practice on Tuesday, Zach Parise said it's tough to attribute the Wild's recent stretch to just one area.

"It's varied from game-to-game," he said. " We can't do much about what happened against Dallas, the only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes, and get better as a team."

One thing that should help Minnesota is a healthier roster. Parise, after missing eight games, has played in the past two. Forward Justin Fontaine, who missed 11, returned to the lineup on Saturday. 

Defenseman Marco Scandella was a full participant in practice on Monday, and is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, having missed the past five games with a lower-body injury.

"We'll talk to him some more here, but we held him out of the weekend from precautionary reasons," Yeo said. "I think he's ready."

If Scandella returns, it will be the ninth game this season the Wild has its full complement of "regulars" that it returned from last season.

"Obviously it will create a bit more stability with the group, and the guys you're going out there with," Yeo said. "As much as anything else it's that internal competition, and now we've got a healthy group to push each other here."

Back in practice also was Christian Folin, who was recalled from Iowa after being assigned on Saturday and playing one game in the AHL.

The Wild juggled defensive pairings a bit during practice, reuniting Suter with Jonas Brodin, and Scandella with Spurgeon, but Yeo said no decisions have been made as far as how things will look on Tuesday.

"Our group of defensemen is as good as any group in the NHL, so we should be able to put different guys on the ice with whoever, and we should be able to be successful as long as we're all on the same page," Yeo said.

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