The Minnesota Wild has stayed on the winning track, going 7-2-1 in its last 10 games, despite two bugs that continue to plague the team: lack of production on the power play and the mumps.
Defenseman Ryan Suter has been diagnosed with the mumps and missed practice today. Last night’s 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens was the first game the blueliner has missed as a member of the Wild, halting a 153-consecutive game streak. The team has taken every precautionary measure, but the strain’s persistence and lack of answers is puzzling and frustrating.
“It’s bizarre,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
Yeo hasn’t ruled out Suter for tomorrow’s contest, as the Wild hosts the Anaheim Ducks. There is no telling how the illness will react with an individual and the bench boss pointed to the examples of Marco Scandella, who only missed two games, and Keith Ballard, who missed eight.
Despite the loss of Suter, the team’s blue line stepped up and will need to do so again against the team floating atop the Western Conference standings. Minnesota seemingly hasn’t had a full compliment of its D-corps since the opening of the season.
“Luckily it hasn’t become a bigger story to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “The fact that we’ve overcome this adversity. We talked about the start of the year how important our D were to the type of game that we want to play and when we’re successful how involved they are at both ends and both sides of the puck.”
The on-ice struggle that has affected the Wild through its first two months of the season has been the team’s power play. The club worked extensively on the man advantage today according to the Lighthouse’s sources (we were a little late to today’s skate because of a lengthy phone interview for the next edition of Wild Magazine, which is going to sing) and moved around PP personnel.
“We’ve tried a lot of different scenarios, we’re trying to put the right pieces in place,” Yeo said. “More than anything else, I want to make sure we get back to the right mentality.
“Whenever your power play is struggling, and that’s what’s going on right now, there are a lot of things you have to overcome.”
Yeo pointed to things beyond X’s and O’s that have been hounding the team. The Wild has a lack of confidence on the power play that leads to anxiety, like a Glossophobic trying to give a commencement speech. Fans voiced their displeasure over the team’s power play during last night’s win against Montreal. The Lighthouse hopes that it was actually the Canadiens’ fans in attendance that were the ones shouting Boo-urns, because we know Minnesota fans are far too smart to boo while your team is winning, notwithstanding the inefficiency of the team’s power play.
“We have to work for our confidence,” Yeo said. “We have character guys and we’re going to keep fighting through it.”
“We saw this last year. There was a part of the season that was some difficult stuff going on and, at the time, I said, “That’s the kind of stuff that can make you better.” And this is the kind of stuff that can make you better, too.”
Even with the lack of output from the power play, the team has been one of the best five-on-five and shorthanded teams in the National Hockey League. If those parts of the team’s game were not as sharp, the Wild would be in a much different position.
“We’re finding a way to win despite the frustration that’s been involved with our power play,” Yeo said. “The power play is part of the game, it’s a very big part. But so is our forecheck and so is our D-zone coverage, so is our faceoffs, and there are so many other elements of the game.
“If we have a great power play and the rest of the areas of our game are not good, and we lose the game, I don’t think we should feel good about that.”