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Wild Hopes Tough Practice Will Cary Over To Play

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk returned to Minnesota Wild practice on Friday after missing the Wild's game on Thursday due to illness.

Dubnyk said he feels better, and should be available to start on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I think that's the plan," he said. "I don't see anything drastic happening, or anything changing, so as long as I continue to get better that's the plan.

"It was just one of those things that took a little bit of energy out of me. I don't know if Darcy might have been scheduled to play regardless, so just take a day, and get better."

Forward Jason Pominville, who was also out on Thursday, with a lower-body injury, did not practice on Friday, and will not be available on Saturday, according to interim Head Coach John Torchetti.

Pominville did accompany the Wild when it left for a three-game road trip, and Torchetti did not rule out Pominville playing later on.

The Wild also recalled forward Jordan Schroeder from Iowa of the American Hockey League.

Schroeder did not practice with the Wild in Minnesota before it departed for a three-game road trip, but it expected to join the team in Montreal.

A day after losing to the Edmonton Oilers, the Wild went through an intense practice on Friday, spending lots of time in battle drills, and working in things Torchetti said were amiss from its latest setback.

"I don't think that we got what we wanted last night," Torchetti said. "The desperation to get pucks deep, that was the number one thing that we talked about."

With the Oilers missing four of their six regular defensemen, the game plan was to get pucks deep, pound Edmonton on the forecheck, and establish offensive zone time by doing so.

"We got to watch some film, and everyone got to watch some of their shifts, and just their puck possession time, " Torchetti said. "Just on the little details of the puck support, and how much we have to make sure we get pucks behind them, and try to work the cycles better offensively."

A win would have pulled the Wild even in the standings with the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota would have passed Colorado by virtue of having played one fewer game.

"Yesterday should have been a win for us, but now we have to battle all the way through, and try to win as many games as possible," Nino Niederreiter said.

During the postgame, Torchetti said the Wild " … just thought we were going to show up." On Friday, he said the Wild can't expect to flip an on-off switch, and that it needs to be playing playoff hockey now. 

Minnesota is in a stretch of its schedule where it is facing teams not in the playoff picture. Beginning with the Wild's game last Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, seven of the Wild's eight opponents sit outside of the top eight in their respective conference.

But there's another challenge in there. Late in seasons young players on non-playoff teams are looking to earn spots for the next season.

"At the end of the day, it's hockey, and you want to always perform at your best level," Niederreiter said. "It doesn't matter if you're in the playoff or out of the playoff, you want to go out there, and perform, and prove themselves that they want to be a part of this organization. For us, we can't take those teams lightly."

The Wild now has less than a month to get itself where it wants to be in the standings before the playoffs begin. It's confident it can get to, but knows the effort and execution needs to be there consistently.

"We talked about that today: You never want to feel comfortable," Dubnyk said. "We have to treat every single game whether we've won four in a row or we've lost a couple, we have to treat it like life or death right now, and that's just the situation we're in. We've done a better job of that on the road, so we need to continue to do that on this trip."

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