In the midst of a 120:52 goalless drought, the Minnesota Wild went through a practice on Sunday led by Skills and Skating Coach Andy Ness.
It was a session spent primarily with puck on stick, taking shots, and trying to regain a feel and a rhythm that has been amiss during a recent slump.
"Practice-schedule wise has been tough for us lately, and then you don't have a lot of practices, and you tend to focus on the team concepts, and the systems part of your game," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "What suffered a little bit is the individual skill work for the players, and that was the purpose of today."
Having been shut out in consecutive games, Yeo said he didn't know if that kind of practice could provide a mental reprieve for the Wild, but that there are no tricks to getting out of this funk.
"We know that the one way to feel confident is to work for it, and to earn it, and we've done that in the past," Yeo said. "There were certainly some good things that we could have taken out of last game. Most nights we score two, three goals the way we played the game and the chances that we created."
That could also be a source of mounting frustration. Unlike the previous games the Wild had lost recently, Minnesota took 29 shots on goal on Saturday, and was able to generate quality scoring chances.
"When things don't go your way, or the other goalie makes a couple of saves you start kind of thinking about it, and thinking, 'Is this going to be one of those nights, again?'" Jason Pominville said. "But we just have to find a way to bury some of our opportunities, and get our confidence, and get our swagger back."
Still, Yeo said it's important for the Wild to build on the positives from its 3-0 loss against the Nashville Predators, though Minnesota still needed to play better.
"The chances that we were generating last game were chances that are typical of us when we're playing our game well," Yeo said. "There are opportunities and situations where we can do more of that, but we can use that as a positive step, and if we do, if we can recognize that and how we were doing it, then it will lead to some more offense for us."
The key now, with three days between games, is making sure the mindset is in the right place.
"Having a few days, too, you get a chance to put the stuff that's gone on, the stuff that's in the past behind you, and just kind of take a deep breath, and collect yourselves," Yeo said. "Again, we've been here before, and dealing with adversity is part of the game."
As a collegiate, Thomas Vanek scored 57 goals in 83 games for the University of Minnesota. So as the Wild took the ice at Mariucci Arena on Sunday, it was a homecoming of sorts for the former Golden Gopher.
"I had a great time at the U, and I'm still a big supporter of it," Vanek said. "It's not that strange for me to come back because I do come here in the summer, but it is nice to be back on campus."
Vanek said the change-of-pace practice might be just what the Wild needed.
"We're not playing great hockey right now, so sometimes having a little fun, and getting the hands going again, and your mind off not scoring is a good thing," he said.
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Forward Ryan Carter skated on Sunday, as did every other active player on the Wild roster, but he did not participate in drills.
Carter is still recovering from a hand injury, and has missed the past three games, and four of the past seven.
"He's still not handling the puck a whole lot, so he's out for right now," Yeo said. "Just keeping himself in shape, keeping skating, and once his hand feels better, then he'll be back."
The Wild also reassigned rookie defenseman Mike Reilly to the American Hockey League. Reilly skated in his fourth career game on Saturday, playing 10:14.
With the Iowa Wild playing on Sunday, Yeo said the focus is to get Reilly into games.
"The bottom line is, we're pleased with his game, we're pleased with the progress we've seen, and we just want to make sure we'll keep him playing," Yeo said.
Yeo said he wasn't sure if the Wild would recall a defenseman prior to leaving for the West Coast to play three games in four days.