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Rink Report: Winning Close Games Key for Wild

Minnesota's confidence, resilience paying off in tight situations

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- With parity in the NHL at a seemingly all-time high, one-goal games are becoming the battleground that decides which teams make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April and which ones miss the cutoff.

 

Over 50 percent of Minnesota's 54 games this season have been decided by one goal, as have the first two games of its mammoth eight-game homestand. The Wild fell to the Blackhawks in overtime on Wednesday before coming out on the right side of a one-goal game against the Lightning on Friday, where it won in a shootout. 

The Wild struggled in close contests last season, winning only about 38 percent of its one-goal games. This year, Minnesota is showing that it's up to the task.

"I think we're probably going to see a lot more games like [the Tampa Bay game] down the stretch," said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "I think that the depth that we have in here and the ability of just about anyone in our lineup to make a big play at any time, that kind of allows us to get ahead in those games and to win those games."

The Wild has won about 52 percent of its one-goal matches this season. Since December, Minnesota has improved to 11-1-3 in contests decided by a goal for an overall record in one-goal games of 15-8-4. Perhaps most importantly, only four of the Wild's 12 regulation losses have been by two or more goals.

In other words, Minnesota has lost just seven percent of its games by more than a goal.

With the rarity of blowout losses and one-goal wins at a premium, comfort and confidence in close contests are paramount, said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.

"The importance is you don't panic in those games," Boudreau said. "So the more games you get to play like that in the regular season, the more games you feel in a comfort zone when those games are taking place [in the playoffs]."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Practice
 

Brodin practicing with team

Defenseman Jonas Brodin, sidelined for 11 games with a fractured finger, appeared on the ice for Saturday's optional skate in the same black practice jersey donned by the rest of the Wild D-corps. 

"It feels good to be back with the guys and sort of practicing," Brodin said. "It feels good to be pretty close."

Brodin was injured back in January in a game against the New Jersey Devils. When an errant shot hit his hand, he said he could feel that something was wrong right away, and when he checked on his finger, it looked "pretty broken."

Now that Brodin is medically cleared for full contact practices, he could crack the lineup again in as soon as one week. Boudreau said Brodin's return should ease the amount of minutes that Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon play on a nightly basis.

"He's pretty irreplaceable for us," Dubnyk said. "He does a lot of things that go unnoticed, and he plays a lot of minutes. He's brought a good offensive side to his game this year, so we've missed him a lot."

Video: Brodin Returns to Practice

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