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Penalty Kill a Big Reason for Early Victories

Ranked 27th in the NHL in penalty kill last season, the Wild has started the season 11-for-11

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Wild will try to finish off a perfect three-game homestand on Thursday night when it hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center.

One of the main reasons why the Wild has won each of its first two games on home ice has been its perfect penalty kill, which is now 11-for-11 in killing opponent power plays through the first three games of the season.

That was certainly the case in a 6-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, when Minnesota's killing units disposed of all five Kings' power plays.

But more than the quantity was the quality.

Up one goal midway through the second period, the Wild were forced to kill an extended stretch of 5-on-3. Minnesota did just that, grabbing the momentum and scoring moments afterward to extend its lead to 3-1.

Two more goals followed shortly after that, and the Wild carried a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.

After the game, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau called it "huge," essentially deeming it to be the turning point.

Video: Mikael Granlund - Practice

"Those are the key moments of the game," said Wild forward Mikael Granlund. "If you let [up] a goal there, they are going to be up [emotionally]. They didn't score, pretty much next shift we score. It's huge for us and it was a big reason why we won that hockey game."

Minnesota's success has been a group affair, as well. Boudreau hasn't settled on a regular core of seven or eight guys to kill. Instead, he's often deploying at least 10 guys, including veteran Jason Pominville, who rarely, if ever, killed during his first few seasons in Minnesota.

But Boudreau identified the kill as a strength of Pominville's during his time in Buffalo and hasn't been afraid to send him over the boards early this season.

Boudreau also said assistant coach Scott Stevens has made a difference in helping to improve a unit that was ranked 27th in the NHL last season.

"I think Scotty is doing a great job with it," Boudreau said. "He's very detailed about it. They had chances; we bent but we didn't break. We can continue to get better."

Reilly back

Mike Reilly's stay in Iowa was a short one.

After being assigned to the American Hockey League affiliate on Monday and playing in its 4-3 loss to Grand Rapids on Tuesday, the Wild recalled Reilly before practice on Wednesday.

The mobile left-handed defenseman is expected to be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs on Thursday, but could be someone who shuttles between St. Paul and Des Moines regularly as the season progresses.

One of the reasons? Reilly's two-way contract doesn't require waivers for him to be sent down. Boudreau also wants the 23-year old to be getting plenty of playing time instead of sitting in a press box.

Reilly could also force Boudreau's hand by stringing together a stretch of strong play.

"I'm a big believer in giving guys second chances," Boudreau said. "You gotta give him a chance to get back in there and say, 'You're not sending me down or sitting me out anymore.'"

Day off for Zucker

Forward Jason Zucker did not practice on Wednesday after he was granted a maintenance day.

Boudreau said Zucker's status for Thursday won't be known until after tomorrow's morning skate.

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