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Rink Report: Wild Focuses on Polishing the Power Play

League-best unit on home ice went 0-for-5 in one-goal loss to Ducks on Tuesday

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- After it was kept off the board in 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild spent a majority of its practice time Wednesday working on its power play, a source of much of its success on home ice this season.

Minnesota entered the game against the Ducks with the NHL's best home power play and had been converting on 30.1 percent of its chances at Xcel Energy Center this season, but went 0-for-5 with the extra attacker in the loss.

It wasn't for a lack of chances, however. The Wild peppered Ducks goaltender John Gibson with 13 shots in 10 minutes of power-play time, but as coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday, nobody was beating Gibson.

"We just wanted to get sharper," Boudreau said. "I thought we had opportunities, but Anaheim did a real good job of boxing out. So this morning, we were trying to get to the inside [of the defensemen], so rebounds, if they're there ... we're able to get to [them]." 

Video: Bruce Boudreau practice

When Minnesota's power play -- and its offense in general -- has been at its best this season, it's been thriving on second-chance opportunities and getting goals from the areas around the net.

While a handful of the Wild's 37 shots on goal came from grade-A areas, Anaheim did a good job of blocking shots and clogging the prime scoring zones. 

"I feel like we could have more in front of their net and get a little more traffic in front of him," said Wild forward Nino Niederreiter. "Sometimes, we made it a little too easy on him."

That starts on the power play, where puck movement and shots on goal were not a problem Tuesday. Making life difficult for the goaltender and finishing off chances is where the Wild needs to fare better on Thursday against Dallas and where it hopes Wednesday's practice can help.

"I thought we worked hard, we generated some opportunities, but at the same time, we could have done a better job getting those secondary opportunities, getting screens and being more around the crease area," said Wild forward Jason Pominville.

"Special teams are going to be key in the playoffs," Niederreiter said. "[Tuesday], we had quite a few chances on the power play and unfortunately we couldn't capitalize on it. But I think we did some good things. We had a good practice today where we could work on some plays, sharpen up in that area and hopefully we can be successful again [on Thursday]."


Brodin on the mend

Defenseman Jonas Brodin took a big step in his recovery from a fractured finger, which forced him from the lineup for the last month. 

While Brodin has been on the ice for about a week, ramping up his skating and conditioning, he took slap shots for the first time on Wednesday.

Brodin indicated over the weekend that he was still experiencing soreness, especially when it came to shooting the puck, but he appears to be making progress in that area and Boudreau said he hopes his return to the lineup is getting close.

"I hoping it's sooner than later," Boudreau said. "He looks like he's skating fine. I gotta believe it's in the not-too-distant future."


Dumba remains out

While the news on Brodin seemed encouraging, defenseman Matt Dumba was not at the rink on Wednesday as he battles an illness. 

Dumba has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury and hasn't returned to the ice since the Wild's game Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Because he hasn't practiced since, Boudreau said it seems likely that Dumba will not return to the lineup until after the bye week. Minnesota continues its homestand against Dallas (Thursday), Nashville (Saturday) and Chicago (Tuesday) before getting five days off. The Wild returns from its break on Feb. 27 when it plays the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center, meaning Dumba could miss as many as three more games.

"The way its going now, he's been off the ice this long, he won't be playing until after the break," Boudreau said.

The crucial test for Dumba will come when the Wild practices on Feb. 26, the day before back-to-back games against the Kings and Winnipeg Jets.


Scouting the Stars

Dallas has lost two straight games and is clawing to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference. A record of 3-6-1 over its past 10 games has made that task more difficult, as the Stars sit six points back of the Kings for the second wild card spot. Los Angeles has three games in hand, however.

In addition to making up that ground, the Stars also have to leap frog four other teams, including Winnipeg, who defeated the Stars 5-2 at MTS Centre on Tuesday night.

Thursday's meeting marks the final time the Wild and Stars will meet this season. Minnesota is 3-0-1 in the first four, posting a 4-0 win in the only game played at Xcel Energy Center on Oct. 29.

Tyler Seguin leads the Stars with a pair of goals to go with two assists in four games against the Wild this season. His 21 goals on the year are tied with Patrick Eaves for the club lead and his 56 points are three more than captain Jamie Benn.

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