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Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Phoenix

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes:

Well, the Wild returned to its Thanksgiving’s Day Eve tradition with tonight’s game. Don’t want to bring up painful memories after a tough loss, but last year we were in a lockout and I was driving through a snowstorm to Grand Forks, N.D., so I’m pretty thankful to be working tonight. Unfortunately, the team suffered its first loss at Xcel Energy since Oct. 28.

The Wild fell into a hole and was unable to comeback against a hungry Coyotes team. After the game, Head Coach Mike Yeo said that the team didn’t come out with the same force as it has been. He said that tonight the team played like it was afraid to lose instead of playing to win. Coming into the game, Phoenix was on a three-game skid and clearly wanted to take two points and draw even with Minnesota in the standing tonight. After a second-straight loss, Minnesota will get a nice break tomorrow to eat some turkey (not too much, don’t want a lot of tryptophan), watch some football and get their minds off hockey. Sometimes taking your mind off the game for a day is the best medicine, but the club will be right back to the grind, kicking off a home-and-home with Colorado at 5 p.m. Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

Clearly the big news tonight was that the team was without Zach Parise, but Wild fans should be thankful for the events at the team’s morning skate. Yesterday, we found out the Wild expected to be without its leading scorer for two to three weeks. Parise suffered a foot contusion from blocking a shot on Monday against the St. Louis Blues. But low and behold, the team’s leading scorer was out there this morning, trying to give it a go, and was a full participant in the skate. However as practice went on, he started to feel as uncomfortable as a fourth helping on Turkey Day, and wasn’t ready for tonight.

Tonight was the first game he’s missed since putting on a Wild sweater. Outside of missing 69 games with a knee injury in 2010-11, tonight was only the fourth game he’s missed during his eight other NHL seasons. But the fact that he was skating this morning is an encouraging sign. Parise is such a competitor and takes extremely good care of himself, I wouldn’t be surprising if he makes his way back before the two-week mark (fingers crossed). Parise’s healing powers seem to be like the potatoes that bachelors will make tomorrow: Instant.

The Wild has been bit by the injury bug lately, but returned four players tonight: Defenseman Keith Ballard, forwards Mikael Granlund and Torrey Mitchell and goaltender Josh Harding. Unfortunately, Granlund’s return was short lived and lasted all of 29 seconds. On his first shift of the game, he finished a check on Connor Murphy and was shaken up. He skated off the ice under his own power, but headed to the locker room.

Without Granlund, the club’s bench boss was forced to shuffle lines throughout the contest. It seems like that has been happening a lot lately, and it’s not easy to win hockey games like that. Yeo tried different combos throughout the night, including moving around a veteran who knows a thing or two about putting the puck into the net…

Dany Heatley scored his third goal in the last five games to cut the Coyotes’ lead to one in the third period, but the team fell short of a comeback. It was a prototypical Heatley goal, as the forward went to the net as Nino Niederreiter circled the offensive zone. Niederreiter fired a shot through traffic from just inside the blue line and Heatley beat Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the front of the cage, and then slammed home the rebound.

Heatley was around the crease all night and was on the verge several times, tying a season-high with four shots, before finally breaking through. This sounds very basic (well, it is) but if you want to be a goal scorer you have to put yourself into the position to score. The best place to do that is around the net. Again, seems like a pretty easy equation, but there are a number of things that make it difficult, including: battling opponents, getting a stick on the puck through traffic and finding holes to put the puck through. But it all starts by going to the net.

After missing nine games, Ballard was activated from Injured Reserve. It was great to see him back on the ice, stirring up the pot on the blue line. In the first period, with the Wild in the D-zone for a faceoff, Ballard was trading whacks with Kyle Chipchura. Later in the shift, he slammed Chipchura into the boards in front of the Wild bench. Ballard is one of the guys off the ice, but is a real pain to play against.

Physicality isn’t the only thing Ballard brings to the blue line. In the third period, he wound it up from his own blue line and jumped up in transition. Matt Cooke found the streaking defenseman flying down the slot, but Thomas Greiss came up with a huge save. The blueliner can spark a team with his physicality or by jumping into the play offensively.

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