The Minnesota Wild needs something to snap out of its four-game cold spell as the team hosts the Buffalo Sabres at Xcel Energy Center tomorrow night.
It will not come from forward Zach Parise, who is doubtful as he recovers from a concussion. Parise has missed the last three games after leaving during the team’s Oct. 4 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The team could see a blue line boost from Jared Spurgeon. The defenseman went into the boards awkwardly against the San Jose Sharks and has missed five games. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that the team will know his availably tomorrow, but sounded optimistic about his return.
“You can certainly see by the way he’s shooting the puck. He’s looking like he’s back to normal here,” Yeo said. “We’ll have a conversation afterwards, and see what he has to say to the trainers. Again, he’s a guy we’d very much like to get in.”
Spurgeon’s injury was a significant blow to the Wild’s offense. The blueliner was key in starting the team’s transition from the back end. Before his injury, Spurgeon had six points (2-4=6) in nine games.
Last seasons, the Wild was in a similar situation when Buffalo came to town. In a 4-1 win, the Wild snapped a six-game losing streak against the Sabres on Jan. 2. This year the Sabres have the worst record in the National Hockey League. However, it would be a mistake for the Wild to expect an easy victory.
“I know that they have a lot of things that could present a challenge for us, but if we’re thinking of anything but ourselves right now then we’re doing ourselves a disservice,” Yeo said. “We have to figure our own stuff out here and it starts with playing a 60-minute hockey game. If we’re expecting anything even remotely close to easy or coming into the game with the focus on the result, and not the way that we need to achieve it, then we’re going to be putting ourselves behind the 8-ball.”
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper will get the start in goal against Buffalo. It’s his third-straight start. He’s been a rock at home, going 5-1-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Today’s practice was optional and the club mostly worked on getting pucks to the net and following up on rebounds by crashing the crease. With a mostly skill day, there were no line rushes, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if Yeo switches anything up amongst the lines. However, he did say that we’ll see a few changes.
“There’s no question that we’ll make some adjustments lineup wise,” Yoe said. “I think that’s needed just for the players’ sake.”
As for what the team needs to get back on the winning track, Yeo said, “We can get harder around the net. A lot of the times, the harder you’re trying to score, if you’re forcing plays that aren’t there then you end up spending more time in your zone and you end up spending more time backchecking and with that less energy to get on the attack. And I think that’s one thing that we’ve seen, especially in these second periods, we’re losing a lot of momentum because of careless turnovers and forcing plays that aren’t there. We have to make sure that we have a little more urgency to get to the hard areas, a little bit more puck support and make sure we’re not looking for easy ice and a little bit more will around their net.” Two Reassigned, Two Recalled
The Wild Recalled defenseman Stu Bickel and forward Jordan Schroeder from Iowa of the American Hockey League. The team also assigned defenseman Jonathon Blum and forward Stephane Veilleux to Iowa.