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Wild Finding Ways To Win To Different Scripts

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Two straight wins for the Minnesota Wild, and while the scores were very similar, they came against two opponents doing decidedly different things.

For Head Coach Mike Yeo, that's a very good sign.

"This is what we talked about the other day, "Yeo said after practice on Friday. "We want to win games scoring five, six goals a night, but we have to be able to win games 1-0, 2-1, whatever the case is.

"But in general, to be able to win two, tight checking games like that is something we weren't doing a week, two weeks ago."

The space Minnesota was afforded against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-1 win on Tuesday was shrunk and drudged away by the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night. But nonetheless, the Wild found a way and came away with a 1-0 victory.

"It's kind of a character win for us," Chris Porter said. "They really clogged it up in the neutral zone, and didn't give us a whole lot offensively, so we had to stick with it.

"We did a great job of sticking with it, taking what they gave us, and in the third period I thought we finally took over."

Coming off a big win against a division rival in Chicago, the Wild returned home for a non-conference game against a team it is less familiar with.

The intensity and familiarity will be revved up again when the Wild hosts the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

"Every game presents a different challenge. Usually the challenge first and foremost is between the ears," Yeo said. "We know what to expect from [Colorado], we know what type of game it is, and we have to prepare for the emotion. We have to prepare to be at our best, and willing to stick with it."

One area that helped buoy the Wild to a win against Toronto was special teams. With how tight checking of a game it was, the Wild's power play (1-for-3), and penalty kill (2-for-2) played a major role in securing two points. 

Over the past three games, the Wild's penalty kill is 7-for-8, with the one goal against coming on a Patrick Kane miss-hit shot in Chicago.

"We're moving as a unit of four," Porter said. "Before there was a little bit of hesitation, and that comes when goals are going in against you. The last two weeks our PK has been good."

Porter said that, like the overall team game, the penalty kill has been building. 

It's a concept that Yeo has echoed over the first 57 days of the regular season: that the Wild needs to be improving on a consistent basis, and while results are important, the product Minnesota is working toward needs to be at the forefront.

"We want to make the playoffs, obviously, but we don't want to just make the playoffs here," Yeo said. "We want to build a game here that when you get to the playoffs, you have a chance to compete, and be a contender.

"In the heat of the moment, when the playoffs hit, that's when your true habits come out as a group."

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