There’s nothing quite like a fall Sunday; a day to unwind and watch a little football, maybe rake a few leaves.
Head Coach Mike Yeo was able to do just that yesterday, with a much-needed day off. But try and he might, his mind is never far from hockey.
“You never shut it off,” Yeo said. “But (a day off) definitely gives you a chance to step back. You need that. Obviously it’s a long season and you need to decompress.”
With three days off between Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win at Carolina and Wednesday’s tilt with the Maple Leafs in St. Paul, the Wild is taking full advantage of the longest break it’ll see until Christmas.
From Nov. 1-9, the Wild played five games (going 4-0-1 in that stretch), with a game every other night. Yeo said it started to feel like last year with how often the Wild played and by the end, it was clear the Wild was starting to feel worn down both physically and mentally. The days off from games provide not only a little time for everyone to rest and recuperate their sore muscles, but also a chance to step back and earn a little mental relaxation. And maybe let their 'staches fill in a little more — some are already great, some have a long way to go.
During that stretch, the Wild also lost two defensemen to injury. Keith Ballard left a 5-1 win over Calgary last Tuesday with an upper body injury, though not related to his injury earlier this season or any concussion issues. Ballard didn’t make the trip out east last weekend. Yeo said he is pretty sore and is expected to be out for a few weeks. As this is Ballard’s second injury of the season, the bench boss did say he wishes the blue liner could get in more games, just to get in more of a rhythm. Though when he has played, he’s been strong for the Wild so far, which is big for a player sporting the Wild sweater for the first time.
A game later, Clayton Stoner left the ice early after crashing awkwardly into the boards at Washington. He is day-to-day with a lower body injury, but according to Yeo, he’ll skate on his own tomorrow and rejoin the team depending on how that goes.
The two injuries leave the Wild with no reserve defensemen, currently, but Yeo isn’t planning on calling anyone up from Iowa as of yet, especially since it’s not a pressing matter. Also, with Iowa so close, it’s much easier to call up a player closer to game day, if needed.
Right now, Yeo is looking to his six healthy defensemen to pick up the slack. With Ryan Suter’s insane ability to chew up seemingly more and more ice time each night — he jokes he’s just a really good glider — while Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon follow in his footsteps, Yeo is looking to Marco Scandella to also take on a bigger role.
“When you have injuries, there’s two things you need,” Yeo said. “Number one, you needs guys who are out of the lineup to come in and perform, and number two, you need guys that are in the lineup to bite off a little bit more, take advantage of it and do the job. He’s an example of it.”
Yeo noted that since having an impact last year in the playoffs, Scandella has been able to carry that momentum into this season and has continued to play a solid game.
Along with Scandella, Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba have had to step back in, after seeing some significant time out of the lineup. Yeo said they looked good Saturday night, though you can’t expect them to come in and play a perfect game after sitting out for the stretch they did.
Saturday night marked Dumba’s tenth game for the Wild, meaning his first-year contract kicked in. Yeo hopes now that he’s gotten over that personal obstacle, the young defenseman can just relax and really focus on playing his game. You can bet the 19-year-old let out a huge sigh of relief when he got the news.
Today is a unique day for the Wild as every single member of the team will be involved in a community service event. The vast majority of the team will be making hospital visits this afternoon between three different Twin Cities’ hospitals.
This evening Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell, Zach Parise, Prosser and Stoner will also participate in an outdoor hockey clinic hosted by Defending The Blue Line for 50 special military children, perfectly timed on Veterans Day.