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Wild Takes Shortsighted Approach to Do-or-Die Situation

Erik Haula returns to practice as Minnesota continues to parse the challenge in front of it

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- They say in hockey, you have to have a short memory in order to keep moving forward. In the Minnesota Wild's case, choosing not to focus on anything but what's immediately ahead is also a good way to go about it.

Forget looking ahead to a potential Game 6 or Game 7: The Wild just wants to win one game. In fact, players want to win the first period of the next game. They want to win the next shift, the next battle in the corner.

It's that shortsighted mentality that they believe will be the key to their success in Game 5, beginning the second the puck is dropped on Saturday.

"We're not looking at the next three games now, we're looking at tomorrow's game," said Wild forward Zach Parise on Friday after the Wild's practice at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. "Again, we talked about going out and trying to win the first period and going from there. Just small steps. We can't look at Game 6, we can't look at Game 7.

"We need to worry about tomorrow and try to bring that same work ethic and that same pace. It's not always pretty, but it was productive for us, so we want that same effort tomorrow."

Video: Wild on Game 5 Preparation

Even as it focuses on the present, the Wild knows it's the last team left that went down 3-0 in the first round of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks were swept, and the Columbus Blue Jackets only managed to win one game against the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

But by winning Game 4, the Wild seems to have rediscovered its mojo. The mood at Friday's practice was light, but "pensive," noted Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.

"I think they're anxious to play again," Boudreau said.

What has inspired the club's confidence? It's their focus on the little things rather than the entirety of the task at hand.

They hope the same strategy that helped them avoid elimination might keep them alive long enough to put together a few good shifts, then periods, then games.

"I think we felt more confident [in Game 4]. We weren't trying to change our game," said Wild forward Charlie Coyle. "We got rewarded for it right off the bat. That gives you confidence in your game, to stick with it instead of playing risky and forcing things and doing things you normally wouldn't do."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Prepares for Game 5
 

Haula returns, good to go for Game 5

The Wild will likely get a key piece of its forward group back into place on Saturday when Erik Haula returns to the lineup after missing Game 4.

Haula practiced with the team on Friday, centering the fourth line of Ryan White and Chris Stewart. With Haula back in, it's likely that Joel Eriksson Ek would be the odd man out.

When asked about what he saw from his club in Game 4, Haula confessed that he was almost "too nervous" to watch the game, but that he noticed strong "team defense" and solid play from Devan Dubnyk in the crease.

Boudreau said Haula looks "ready to play," and the centerman is certainly eager to play a role as the Wild tries to mount its comeback.

"We just gotta deliver a victory here for us and for them and for everybody," Haula said, "That's all it comes down to. It's do or die here the rest of the way and it's a great challenge for us."

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