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Rink Report: Wild's Toughest Critic May Be Its Coach

Despite big win Thursday, Wild has work cut out for it this weekend

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild scored one of its most impressive victories of the season on Thursday, a 7-1 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center.

But nearly as quickly as that one was over, the Wild turned its attention of another back-to-back set of games this weekend, this time against Central Division foes Dallas and Chicago. 

Despite tying a season high with seven goals and matching the franchise record for margin of victory in a home game (coming 8.5 seconds away from breaking it), Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said there were things the Wild could have done better.

"We were scoring and I don't want to take anything away from Montreal but we weren't very good," Boudreau said after the game. "We took advantage of a very tired team. So when we talk about balance and that we have to play a lot better this weekend if we want to be successful. We were giving pucks away. We didn't seem to have our legs. We certainly had puck luck. Sometimes that's good [but we can't rely on that forever."

By Friday morning, Boudreau had softened his stance slightly, saying that he was debating his assistant coaches as to whether things were as bad as he initially prescribed. 

Boudreau admitted he is often harder on the players than assistant coaches John Anderson, Scott Stevens, Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason.

"I thought we were worse than we were and they thought we were better than we were," Boudreau said with a chuckle Friday morning before the team's flight to Texas. "We're all looking at the tape right now to have a little bit of a meeting about it.

"I've got the bar set really high."

One thing the coaching staff did agree on was the quality of its defensive play against the Canadiens. The Wild surrendered 21 shots on goal, and perhaps more importantly, just four scoring chances by Mason's count.

"You do that, you gotta be doing something right, I don't care how tired the team is that you're playing against," Boudreau said. "To give up fewer than 10, we think is great. And to give up only four, that's really good."

In facing the Canadiens, the Wild got a good look at the types of teams it will face in the Stars and Blackhawks this weekend, two skilled, speedy teams that are capable of putting the puck in the net. 

"It's a great little lesson or precursor to what we're going to see," Boudreau said. "Both of those teams are going to present the same kinds of problems but I don't think they'll be fatigued like the team we played [Thursday]."

Both Dallas and Chicago will be playing on normal rest. The Stars defeated the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in Dallas while Chicago will play the Washington Capitals on Friday before heading home to The Windy City, where it will watch the Stars and Wild on Saturday.

Minnesota played back-to-backs in Southern California last weekend and will do so again next weekend when it hosts the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday for Hockey Day Minnesota before Nashville comes to town for a game on Sunday.

Optional Friday

With the team scheduled to leave the Twin Cities around 2 p.m., Boudreau gave the players the option to show up at Xcel Energy Center for treatment and meetings. Only a few did and nobody was on the ice.

It's a strategy Boudreau experimented in the run up to Thursday, where he took it easy on the team Wednesday before holding a more strenuous (than normal, anyway) morning skate before the Montreal game. 

The early result was certainly encouraging.

Texas Two-Step

The game against the Stars on Saturday is Minnesota's second game in Dallas this season; the Wild dropped a 3-2 decision there on Nov. 21. 

But the Wild won't have to wait long for another trip to Dallas, as the division rivals hook up at American Airlines Center on Jan. 24, Minnesota's final road game before the All-Star break. 

Minnesota will play five of its final eight games before the break on home ice, but two of the three road games will be in Dallas, where the Wild is 7-17-8 all time.

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