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Wild Wants To Add Offense, But Stay Balanced

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

During the Minnesota Wild's current current seven-game point streak (4-0-3) the defensive style that has defined the Wild's game the past few seasons has been back at the forefront. 

The key for the Wild now as it heads into a game on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks is finding its scoring touch, so long as it doesn't come at the expense of the recent defensive gains.

"We're just playing simpler hockey, and we're being a bit more patient than we were in the past," Jared Spurgeon said. "Obviously defense is the big thing on our team right now, but we don't want to give stuff up just to try to score one more goal. We're ok with playing 2-1 games, and everyone in this room is comfortable doing that."

Spurgeon has been one of the many Wild players to pick his game up defensively lately. During the Wild's current point streak, Spurgeon has been on the ice for one even-strength goal against in the seven games. 

They key now is finding a balance of maintaining the defensive structure, while finding enough offense.

"For whatever reason, we've typically scored a little bit more (at home) than we have on the road," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't think that we should just hope and expect that to happen again tonight, but I do want to see us have an aggressive mindset as far as how we pressure, and how we attack.

"Looking back at the game tape of the last time we played these guys, we got a number of opportunities, and looks, and good zone time, but we were on the outside a lot."

The Wild will begin a stretch of six of its next seven games at Xcel Energy Center, and will do so with two new lines. Mikko Koivu will center Thomas Vanek to his left, and Jason Zucker to his right, and Charlie Coyle will be between Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine.

"Nino is a guy who, I think we have a similar game," Coyle said. "He can go in the corners, and win puck battles, and be a big body out there in front of the net. "[Fontaine] is pretty crafty with the puck, and makes great plays, and I think we're going to feed off each other really well tonight."

Like Spurgeon, Coyle said the Wild's emphasis needs to remain on defense.

"We just have to trust our defensive game, and that's going to lead to our offensive game," Coyle said. "We play tight, and we put our prime emphasis on our defensive game, and playing tight, and playing a solid game back there is going to lead to our transition, and more time in their zone."

And with its new lines, Yeo is hoping the Wild can play more from the inside and take away sightlines from the opposing goalie.

"It was easy for their goalie to see the puck," Yeo said of the Wild's last game against Vancouver. "I'd like to see us be a little tougher there."

Here is the Wild's projected lineup:

Thomas VanekMikko KoivuJason Zucker

Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Nino NiederreiterCharlie CoyleJustin Fontaine

Chris PorterErik HaulaRyan Carter

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaJonas Brodin

Nate ProsserMatt Dumba

Darcy Kuemper

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