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Wild Gets Rare Practice Amid Busy Schedule

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Once the subject of a rant by Allen Iverson, the Minnesota Wild got some much needed work in Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. 

And yes, we're talking about practice.

For the third time since Christmas, the Wild found time amid a hectic schedule to get on the ice for a full hour, and fine-tune some areas of its game it felt needed improvement.

"I honestly don't remember the last time we had a practice like that," Jason Zucker said. "It's good to get out there and have a couple, and it's good to get back into that routine a little bit."

The Wild has played 10 games since coming back from the holiday break, making practice time hard to find. But Thursday provided an opportunity to refocus and reestablish some habits Minnesota felt have been amiss of late.

"It seems that when you don't practice a lot, sometimes your game slips a little bit in certain areas," Marco Scandella said. "It's always nice to refresh, and just get back to practicing hard, and just getting everybody on the same page."

One area the Wild spent a good chunk of time working on was the power play.

A combination of lack of practice time, and lack of in-game power plays (the Wild has had one power play in each of its past four games, and 21 in the 10 games since Christmas) has seen the power play enter a funk.

"It's a little bit of an excuse, but there really hasn’t been a lot of time to get any rhythm with it, whether it is practice or, (getting) one a game," Zach Parise said.

As to why the Wild isn't spending more time on the power play, both Parise and Head Coach Mike Yeo felt Minnesota could be doing more things at even-strength to put the opposition in uncomfortable positions.

"When we're on top of our game we're playing in the offensive zone a little bit more, controlling the puck a little bit more, and it forces the opposition into situations where they might have to hook or hold," Yeo said.

The other element is, with one power play in each of its past four games, a bad start to the two minutes could mean the total time Minnesota has on the man-advantage for the game could soon be over.

"Let's say you lose that draw and you can't break in, that's over, and that's done, and you don't even touch the puck in the zone," Parise said. "When we have gotten it in, the options are there, it's just a little bit here and there, but practicing it more and getting more reps in a game that stuff becomes easier, and that stuff becomes more automatic than it is right now."

It was a fully attended practice, with the exception of forward Ryan Carter, who will miss the next two games with a hand injury.

"He skated on his own today, and he's going to be out for this weekend," Yeo said. "He's just not feeling well enough to get out there and play the game that he needs to play."

Defenseman Nate Prosser, who has missed the past three games with a hand injury, is expected to return to the lineup on Friday against the Winnipeg Jets.

With a back-to-back coming and a game against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, Yeo hasn’t made any other lineup decisions. Devan Dubnyk will start on Friday, and rookie defenseman Mike Reilly will remain with the Wild.

"Especially going into that second game, being on the road, we don't really have a plan as far as who it is, but it's certainly nice to have an extra guy available," Yeo said.

Here are the Wild's lines from practice:

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuCharlie Coyle

Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Thomas VanekErik HaulaNino Niederreiter

Chris PorterJarret StollJustin Fontaine

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Marco ScandellaNate Prosser

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