The Wild needs to have amnesia. Well, maybe not full-blown amnesia, but definitely a short-term memory as it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
After a five-year wait Xcel Energy Center will be the site of Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Wild comes back to the State of Hockey facing a 2-0 deficit against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Hawks. After losing a tough overtime thriller in the opener, Minnesota didn’t play well in Game 2 and the Blackhawks handed the club a 5-2 loss.
But the club will have to put those games behind them and continue to move forward. Head Coach Mike Yeo said that the coaching staff has identified places where the team needs to improve, but doesn’t want to dwell on the fact that Minnesota is in a two-game hole.
“Because we’re down 2-0, it doesn’t mean this series is over,” Yeo said to the media after today’s afternoon skate. “I’ve been a part of series where we’ve come back from being down 2-0 and I know there’s other people on our team who have as well.”
Minnesota practiced today with the same lines as the opening two games of the series, but Yeo said that he is taking everything into consideration before Game 3. Does that mean shaking up the lines? With no morning skate for tomorrow’s 2 p.m. game, we’ll have to wait and see. However, Yeo added that he’s not going to panic and neither will the Wild.
“Because we played one game that wasn’t good, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel,” Yeo said.
One advantage the Wild will have at home is last line change, so Yeo can get the matchups he wants. This is especially important during offensive-and defensive-zone faceoffs. However, the Wild bench boss acknowledge the Hawks seemed satisfied to roll four lines at home for the most part. Another advantage Yeo expects to have is the home crowd.
“I thing this place is going to be rocking tomorrow,” Yeo said. “We’re excited for that.”
Coming back from two games down is going to be a tall task, but rebounding after tough losses is what the Stanley Cup Playoffs is all about.
“How do you bounce back from that?” Yeo questioned. “That’s the challenge…the good teams and the teams that do, move on.”
Although the Wild has its doubters in the series, Yeo remains optimistic about the club’s chances.
“The good news is that we haven’t seen our best hockey, yet,” Yeo said. Minnesota hopes to get to it’s A-game tomorrow afternoon.
Backs On The Ice
The Wild had three goalies on the ice, as Niklas Backstrom skated again along with Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper. After practice Backstrom said he’s feeling better, but didn’t say if he’d be able to go tomorrow the Wild coaching staff tapped him to start.
So if Backstrom is ready, do you go with the guy who got you here or the netminder with the hot hand? Harding has stopped 78 of 84 shots for a .929 save percentage. I’m glad I’m not the one in charge of that decision.
Clayton Stoner and Jason Pominville did not skate today. Stoner is out with an undisclosed injury suffered in Game 1 of the series. Pominville is out with an upper-body injury after taking a Dustin Brown elbow on April 23. They are both considered day-to-day.
Vids from Practice
WildTV caught up with Marco Scandella, who scored his first-career playoff goal last night. The blueliner has stepped in and played big minutes after being recalled from Houston before the start of playoffs.
Zach Parise had a typically large media scrum, addressing the team’s return to home ice and the need to beat Hawks’ netminder Corey Crawford.
The game will be the State of Hockey’s first Stanley Cup Playoff game in five years, but will also be viewed by a national audience. The 2 p.m. game will broadcast live on NBC. Big time.
Join the festivities outside of Gate 1 and 3 of Xcel Energy Center. The Wild will host a pre-game party from noon to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, prior to faceoff.
The party will include live music, food and drink, including a beer garden, an appearance by the FOX Sports North Girls, as well as face painting and a Hockey Lodge tent with new playoff merchandise.
Aeros Look to Advance
Finally, the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, skate in a winner-take-all Game 5 tonight against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Go to Aeros.com for all the pertinent news on the team.