Defenseman Jared Spurgeon did not participate in Minnesota Wild practice on Friday, and is questionable to doubtful for its Saturday game against the Boston Bruins.
Spurgeon sustained a deep bruise during the Wild's game against the St. Louis Blues last Saturday. He missed each of the Wild's past two games, but practiced on Wednesday, and took part in morning skate on Thursday.
"Knowing him, I'm not ready to rule him out," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "If he's ready to come out and battle and compete at the level that he's capable of, then obviously we'd love to put him in the lineup. But if he's not there, then we're confident with the group we have, too."
Without Spurgeon for essentially the past three games (he played one period and two shifts against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday), and without defenseman Jonas Brodin, Yeo said it's been hurting the Wild's execution level.
"Those are two key cogs in our defensive group, and your defensive group is usually the key to your execution," Yeo said. "Confidence isn't extremely high and you can see that it's reflected in our execution a little bit."
Yeo specifically was referring to the second period. It's been a problem area for the Wild since the All-Star Break, a stretch Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in second periods, including 3-1 on Thursday against the Washington Capitals when Alex Ovechkin's hat trick provided Washington with its offense for the night.
The Wild is 0-4-1 in those games, and has outscored its opponents 9-7 in periods one and three, combined.
"System-wise, nothing has changed at all," Jason Zucker said. "We have to get our mind right, making sure that if we have a good period, we have a better second, or if we have a not-so-great first period, we have an even better second."
After losing to the Capitals, Yeo said the Wild has been spending too much time playing in its own end in second periods. As for why the Wild is getting hemmed in, Minnesota is still looking for a solution.
"It's a tough question to answer," Jarret Stoll said. "The second period, your line changes are different. You have to make smarter line changes."
Yeo also referenced line changes in the second period, and while neither said that was the only source of the problem, it could be a factor.
"It's further for you to go to get into your d-zone, and the way the game is today, it's a transition game," Stoll said. "Everybody is fast, and moving the puck north, and tipping pucks in to get on the forecheck. That's a big thing — it's a small thing, but it's a big thing."
As the Wild tries to shake its second period woes, bridging the gap to churning out a 60-minute performance, not overthinking and overcomplicating what's gone awry in the middle of games is part of the challenge.
"Your system is your system, and your structure is your structure; you shouldn't be changing it and getting away from that," Stoll said. "Otherwise, you're going to be getting away from a lot of things. As a whole, as a 60-minute game, we're trying to put it all together. We still haven't done that."