When a team is feeling it, the club wants to keep playing and stay rolling. After four straight wins, the Minnesota Wild is back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race and gaining confidence.
However, thanks to a lull in the schedule, the team won’t get back at it until Saturday, hosting the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
“We played a lot of games and all of a sudden we have three days between games,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “You have to make sure we’re getting ready for an opponent that we know is going to be ready to play against us.”
Of course, the Wild topped the Avs in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year and took the opening two games of the season in a home-and-home series, outscoring Colorado, 8-0.
Minnesota wants to keep pushing forward and today’s skate signaled that intent. After a scheduled off day, the Wild was back on the ice for an intense battle-laden practice. The club was up-tempo and concentrated on crisp execution. The team’s bench boss doesn’t want to see any slippage in the club’s game because of the win streak.
“We’ve had some success and won four in a row and that’s great, but quite often, without you even realizing it, your urgency level can drop, your habits can drop,” Yeo said. “And next thing you know you’re scrambling to get back to the level that you were at.”
In fact, the club believes there is another gear it can reach.
“For us, we don’t want to make sure we only stay at the level, but push to get to an even higher level,” Yeo said.
The Wild’s confidence as a group is the most noticeable difference. Even in today’s practice, the intensity level was noticeably ratcheted up after a day off.
“That’s what a couple wins can do for you,” forward Zach Parise said. “It’s easier to come to the rink now.”
“Slowly we’re getting back to playing that same style of hockey with the puck we were earlier in the season when we were winning a lot of games. That has a lot to do with the confidence and the team.”
With Minnesota’s collective self-esteem on the rise, individuals have been able to lock-down on their own responsibilities. This has made a marked improvement on its game and system play.
“As a group we have a much better focus, everybody on their own jobs,” Yeo said. “Nobody is thinking or worrying about what anyone else is doing, they’re committed to doing their job and they’re responsible in their role.”
Now the test is to keep it rolling on Saturday.
Cooke Placed on IR; Fontaine Prepared To Rejoin Practice
Minnesota has placed forward Matt Cooke on Injured Reserve. The forward suffered a lower-body injury and Yeo said that he’d have a further update on his status tomorrow.
Forward Justin Fontaine, who has missed two games with a groin injury, skated yesterday and today. Yeo said that he’s feeling better and expects him to join the team for practice tomorrow.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has a new Wild mask and plans on debuting it Saturday against the Avs. WildTV exclusively spoke to the netminder about the paint job.
Playing for his fifth team in two years, Dubnyk has had a lot of touch ups lately. He has a picture of his son on the back and joked, “I’ve had a lot of masks over the last year so I’ve got to basically paint pictures of his first year of development on the back of my helmets.”
Dude, I'm Marking It Eight
Wild players will participate in the first ever “Strike it Wild” Bowling Event tonight presented by Treasure Island Resort and Casino. The sold-out event will feature players as celebrity bowlers and will benefit the American Diabetes Association and Minnesota Wild Foundation. WildTV will be there and a photo gallery will be posted on Wild.com following the event.