ST. PAUL -- Unhappy with his team's battle level in a season-opening 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau made sure his team got that message loud and clear.
Boudreau put the Wild through a vigorous practice at Xcel Energy Center on Friday as the club prepared for its home opener on Saturday against another Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets.
"It was a really hard practice. A lot of skating, a lot of one-on-one competing, and it was a good one," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "I think going into St. Louis, if you're not willing to compete and get physically engaged in the game, that's a tough place to win. So there's just a lot of things that, watching some clips this morning, we could've done a lot better. The outcome speaks of kind of the game we played."
The Wild didn't do enough physically to compete, especially early, against the Blues. It got better later in the game, but by then, the Wild was down two goals. Charlie Coyle scored with just over six minutes left to get within one and give Minnesota a final chance, but it couldn't find the equalizer.
The practice session on Friday was about reminding his players about the level of compete that is expected.
"We're a pretty good team when we compete," Boudreau said. "But if we only compete for half the game, we're not a good team. You can't go against a team like St. Louis unless you're ready to play for 60 minutes."
Boudreau has stressed throughout training camp and the preseason that he doesn't expect the Wild to out-hit teams. With the roster in place, more specifically, the strengths of the players, Boudreau isn't expecting the Wild to become a powerhouse.
But he does expect more in that regard than what he got on Thursday.
"We're not the biggest team but at the same time, we've got to get involved. We're not going to get any shots on goal if we can't apply any pressure to the other team. We don't want a 21-shot game too often this year, two [shots] in the first period. We've gotta make sure that, if we apply pressure and we have good support, we're going to have pucks and opportunities."
The Wild nearly scored 30 seconds into the game on Thursday when Marco Scandella ripped a slapper from the point off the crossbar. A handful of other near missed escaped wide of the cage as Minnesota didn't get its first shot on goal until the seven-minute mark of the first period on a short-handed breakaway by Jason Zucker.
Despite a massive shots-on-goal deficit through one period, the Wild trailed in attempted shots by just two, 19-17. Finding a way to get those attempts on goal was another point for Boudreau.
"We always tell them, 'Any shot on goal over the net or wide isn't going to go in,'" Boudreau said. "They are there. They are being hampered and trying to score, but sometimes when that happens, you're trying to be too cute. You're looking for a two-inch spot where I have always told everybody for years, I always base it on four quadrants -- just try and hit one of those areas, don't try to be too cute.
"I think in the first period, we were looking for the perfect little opportunity to shoot into a two-inch space and that's why they were going high and wide."
After practice, Boudreau met with a host of players privately, but not to scold or even teach. Instead, he said he will try and meet with players every 10 days or so to catch up on anything, referencing one player during his time in Washington, a hard worker, who seemed out of it for a week or so before he finally asked what was wrong.
Boudreau had no idea the player was having a difficult time with an off-ice issue and told the player to clear his head by taking care of it before returning to practice.
It can also be a time for a player to voice concern over on-ice issues he may be having.
"It's about getting to know each other and telling them what I think they've accomplished or haven't accomplished so far," Boudreau said. "Sometimes, if a player is going through a bad time or a bad segment, he wants to get something off his chest and it's a good time to talk and be able to communicate rather than hold it in and fester."