The snow is finally dumping down on Minnesota, making December look like a wintery wonderland — outside of the road-rage-inducing, extra-long commutes of course.
After a day off, the Wild braved the snow, like so many of us, and got to work at Xcel Energy Center. Much of practice was dedicated to working on the man-advantage — a facet of the game the Wild has scarcely seen of late.
Minnesota hasn’t scored a power play goal since Nov. 20 at Ottawa when Jason Pominville tallied one to put the Wild on the board. In the six games since, the Wild are 0-for-11 on the man advantage. But the Wild also played those six games in 10 days, affording little practice time to concentrate on it. Today finally provided the perfect opportunity.
“When our power play is struggling, it’s hard to get in any kind of rhythm,” Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “And we haven’t had the practice time too. When you’re getting two power plays a game, tops, right now, it’s tough to really give these guys a chance to work out of it.”
Adding to that, Yeo also switched up the formation of the power play units, flipping Dany Heatley and Charlie Coyle for the majority of practice. Coyle did spend some time on the top unit, but only when the team was practicing a 5-on-3.
“We put (Heatley) there to give a bit of a change as we haven’t been scoring,” Yeo said. “But also because we needed some help on the second unit as well. … When we were successful earlier with our power play, it wasn’t just the first unit. We had a second unit that was going out and contributing. And we feel that’s been lacking lately.”
Yeo also noted that every year there are ups and downs in all areas of the game but to get that power play trending upwards, it’s a matter of having the right focus and right execution. The key to finding that execution is not being predictable and to have movement, which allows players to use their creativity, according to Yeo.
Whatever work Minnesota put in on the power play today will quickly be put to the test tomorrow night against Chicago as the Wild had a combined eight power play opportunities in its two games against the Blackhawks previously this season, capitalizing only once.
In other news, Mikael Granlund has been shut down for the time being. The center skated earlier this week, but Yeo said there were no improvements on his status.
“We’re at the point now where, lets take some time off and make sure we get this right,” Yeo said.
Ending on a happy note today: Josh Harding — who is expected to start tomorrow night — made it a very special day for young goalie.
The Wild hosted the Minnesota Hockey Coaching Excellence award winners today. The group watched practice and as Harding headed into the locker room he stopped and talked to a young goaltender, posed for a picture, and proceeded to sign his stick for the lucky youngster. Seeing sights like that never get old.
Toys For Tots
Just a little reminder, the Wild is collecting toys and money donations for the Wells Fargo Toys for Tots Drive at tomorrow's game against the Blackhawks. Wives and girlfriends of Wild players will be collecting toys and monetary donations outside all gates at Xcel Energy Center before puck drop.
Wild fans can also donate toys and money at the Polaris Promo Booth outside of section 123 at all home games through Dec. 17, or at any Minnesota Wells Fargo location through Dec. 20.