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Wild Pushing Forward

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

Shootout points are fickle things in the National Hockey League. Win a shootout and the extra point, and everything is hunky-dory. Drop a couple shootouts in a row and suddenly you’re on a losing streak.

The day after losing its second-consecutive shootout, the Minnesota Wild was back on the ice for a high-paced practice at Braemar Arena, home of the recently crowned Class 2A high school boys’ state champions, the Edina Hornets. Despite falling short in the shootouts, the Wild isn’t hitting the panic button, just going back to work.

“I thought our guys had a good practice today,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “There’s not time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. Those things happen from time to time. But you have to have the mentality at this time of the year, ‘We can’t let it happen any more.’

“So what’s really important for us is to put it aside.”

Coming off of three games in four nights, Minnesota had a short, yet, intense practice. There was a definite focus in the drills and the team had a workmanlike attitude. Along with some flow and battle drills, the Wild prioritized on special teams. The addition of Matt Moulson at the trade deadline added a new power play guy, and the club is still working him into the mix. After failing to convert on a 5-on-3 in regulation and 4-on-3 in overtime against the Oilers, Yeo feels the team needs to continue to get reps in.

“The more that we can get out there and work these things, in practice and just getting the reps,” Yeo said. “Knowing where guys are and knowing their tendencies—where their sticks are going to be and reading off each other—is going to help more and more.”

With that said, the team did go 1-for-4 against the Oilers and has scored a power play goal in four of six games since coming out of the Olympic break. The club definitely has the pieces. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon said the PP would like to simplify things, get more movement and second-chance opportunities.

“When you see the top power plays around the League, they’re all shooting pucks and getting rebounds,” Spurgeon said. “It might not be the first shot that goes in, but the second or third.”

Spurgeon Sets Career Mark

Last night, Spurgeon set a career time on ice mark, playing 30:40. It was the first time he went over the 30-minute mark in his career, but it didn’t faze the blueliner.

“I didn’t even know until today, so thanks for telling me,” Spurgeon said to the Lighthouse. “With the way things are going and how meaningful the games are, you don’t put effort into thinking about that when there are much more important things that happen.”

Kuemper in Against the Rangers

Yeo said that Darcy Kuemper will get a chance to bounce back tomorrow night as the Wild hosts the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center. Bouncing back is something the netminder, and Minnesota, has been able to do with regularity this season.

“You can see he’s a water-off-the-duck’s-back kind of guy,” Yeo said. “He’s been able to show that when things have not gone well, but he’s also been able to show that when things have gone well. He hasn’t let that affect his focus or preparation and that’s what you look for in a goalie.”

By his own admission, Kuemper is “fairly normal” for a goaltender. Kuemper said that his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels, worked with a sports psychologist, who helped him control the highs and lows of a hockey season.

“He used to say, “If you nap for an hour forty-five instead of two hours, does that change what kind of goalie you are?” Kuemper said. “When you hear it and work with someone like that, it makes a lot of sense. Then you kind of learn how to go with the flow.”

Shootout Skills

After two-consecutive games, the Wild wrapped practice with players practicing the shootout.

Kuemper stopped his first 11 career shootout attempts before yesterday’s match with the Oilers. When a player is bearing down, Kuemper explained what is going through his mind.

“Keep your eye on the puck and let them make the first move, and read off of that,” Kuemper said. “It’s patience and trying to keep your depth, and match their speed, so that you don’t give them too much net, but at the same time don’t let them get around you.”

Yep, that’s a lot to process in a short amount of time and one of the many reasons the Lighthouse quit playing goalie after one season.

Food Drive

At tomorrow's game, the Wild will be hosting a food drive benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank. Fans are encouraged to bring Campbell’s canned goods, V8 juice, Prego Pasta Sauce or any non-perishable food items to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. The first 2,500 fans to make a donation will receive a commemorative Wild poster, while supplies last.  Limit one poster per person.  No purchase necessary.

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