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Wild Hoping Hard Work Will Pay Off

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Sometimes, the best sort of medicine for curing disappointment is just hunkering down and putting in some hard work.

In a long practice Monday, that’s exactly what the Wild did. From working on odd-man rushes, to special teams and 3-on-3 zone drills, the Wild seemed to cover it all coming off an unsatisfactory road trip where it went 1-2-1.

On that trip the Wild netted just five goals despite outshooting its opponents an average 28.5 shots per game to 22.25 shots, leaving the team feeling snake bitten. Minnesota faces a hot Nashville team Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, but returning to home doesn’t mean the scoring will return, or winning for that matter, as Head Coach Mike Yeo pointed out after practice.

“We needed to come in here with a workman’s like attitude and I thought our guys did,” Yeo said. “I thought we had good pace to our practice, we had good battle to our practice, and we concentrated on some areas that we feel we need to get better at.”

One of those areas was working on creating chances around the net and burying them. The Wild are averaging 30.7 shots per game and limiting opponents to a league-leading 21.8 shots per game, yet the Wild are 3-3-3 and struggling to finish around the net. Yeo noted that while the Wild are doing a lot of things well, it’s not good enough yet and needs to get better in order for success.

Another ailing part of the Wild’s game is the penalty kill. Operating at a 73 percent clip the Wild’s penalty kill is second-to-last in the league. It has also given up the most power play goals in the NHL this season with 10 tallies against. Yeo noted that while the Wild are balancing between fixing what’s wrong and building off what’s right, the mental part of the game is a huge factor when it comes to playing a man down.

“When you’ve had success and you go out there and you’re feeling that, certainly you step over the boards with a different mindset,” Yeo said.

After moving the lines around in an effort to spark some offense Saturday, the lines will return to the same pairings the Wild took on the road, with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville swapping spots on the first and second line. Yeo noted that Niederreiter earned the opportunity to play on the top line once again after a strong effort in Florida.

Pominville will return to a scoreless second line, working with Dany Heatley and Mikael Granlund — who also impressed in Florida. WildTV caught up with Granlund after practice to chat about his season so far.

The bottom-half of the lines also bring back some familiarity as Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine anchor the third line, while Zenon Konopka centers Torrey Mitchell and Stephane Veilleux on the fourth.

On the blue line, Keith Ballard did not skate today and will not play tomorrow. With Ballard out, opportunity awaits the defensemen fighting for playing time — notably Mathew Dumba or Nate Prosser. Dumba, who has seen action in six games, is closing in his nine-game threshold where he could be sent back to juniors without his contract kicking in. While focusing on that mark isn’t want Yeo wants, the bench boss did indicate that Prosser could sneak into that open spot.

Remember tomorrow is Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night with in-arena concourse tables about different charities and dasher boards made over in lavender. You can find out more about the event here.

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