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Wild's Power Play Opening Up Different Things

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

NASHVILLE -- Amid its longest point streak of the season, the issues the Minnesota Wild addresses going into games can be viewed as luxuries.

Don't get complacent, keep things in perspective, and try to keep what has ballooned into a nine-game point streak (6-0-3) rolling into the Christmas break, with three games separating the Wild and its time off.

"We're finding different ways to win, so it's not to get too high, not to get too low," Jason Pominville said. "It's trying to be consistent, and trying to keep improving. You never want to be satisfied, you want to be pushing for more, and we have a group of guys that are willing to do that."

With that break right around the corner, at which point the Wild will have played 33 games, over 40 percent of the season will have been played.

The schedule condenses, and in the Western Conference, where there's plenty of parity, the moving and shaking now will have a direct impact on the playoffs.

"It's nice to win those tight games, and know that you can win any way pretty much," Pominville said. "We won the tight ones, we've won the games where we've scored more goals, but to be able to play in the tight games is the most important thing.

"It's usually the way it goes in the playoffs, and so far we've shown that we're capable of doing that."

The Wild isn't looking past any single game, but instead continuing with its mindset of using every day to build toward a product that will be successful come April.

"I like that kind of hockey, I like how this time of year, going forward, it's all playoff-style games, and points are very, very important," Jarret Stoll said. "We all see the standings, and know what they're all about, so it's a positive thing going into these buildings."

What the Wild has done of late is score. The 11-combined goals-for Minnesota has in its past two games is its highest two-game output of the season.

Against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, Head Coach Mike Yeo said he doesn't expect there to be much space to operate.

"They're not giving up much," Yeo said. "They're playing tight defensively, the puck hasn't gone in for them, and we know for us it's tough if you haven't been scoring goals. They're going to be a desperate team."

The Predators have scored two or fewer goals in seven of their past 11, going 0-5-2 in those games.

That could portend a game against Minnesota on Saturday where, as Yeo said, space will be at a premium. But Pominville said another thing the Wild has done well lately is force teams to deviate from their gameplan.

"Our power play kind of goes hand-in-hand with how our five-on-five play has gone," he said. " Usually if you get the power play going, you get on the board, and get leads, and teams have to open up, and then your five-on-five play will carry on from there."

It happened the Wild's last game on Thursday against the New York Rangers, a 5-2 win. The Wild carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, and then Pominville scored a power-play goal to make it 3-1.

Everything spiraled from there, Chris Porter scored 40 seconds later, and the Rangers were forced to take more risks facing a greater deficit. Instead of turtling, the Wild had 15 shots on goal over the final 20 minutes.

"Overall we're a pretty reliable team five-on-five, we don't give up much, but if teams have to open up because we've scored on the power play, then we get more looks, and we've been able to capitalize lately," Pominville said.

STOLL'S ROLE

Each team has its own identity, but the ambiguity of systems and schematics actually has a lot of carryover in the NHL.

Stoll, after playing in his first game as a member of the Wild on Thursday, said he's studying video to get up to speed, but also didn't come in completely blind.

That includes on the penalty kill, an area Stoll where saw and will continue to see time.

"It's very, very similar to what we did in LA, especially up ice, and in the neutral zone, and pretty much everything," Stoll said. "You have to make the right reads, and a lot of times, power plays, they've got the same looks."

The Predators power play, the 10th most-effective in the NHL at 20.6 percent, provides its own wrinkles, according to Stoll, but wrinkles he's faced from his days with the Los Angeles Kings.

"There are a little different situations sometimes if you got a guy like Shea Weber, or Alex Ovechkin, but for the most part, power plays kind of do the same things," Stoll said.

Here is the Wild's projected lineup:

Thomas VanekMikko KoivuJason Zucker

Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Nino NiederreiterCharlie CoyleJustin Fontaine

Chris Porter – Jarret Stoll – Ryan Carter

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaJonas Brodin

Nate ProsserMatt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

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