BOSTON – After missing the Minnesota Wild's game on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to illness, Erik Haula is feeling a lot better, according to Head Coach Mike Yeo, and will likely play against the Bruins in Boston on Thursday.
"He worked out this morning, and he'll fly in today, and I'm expecting him to play," Yeo said.
Absent from practice on Wednesday was Ryan Carter, who is also sick, but has not been ruled out for the game against the Bruins.
"I know [Carter], he would have to be awfully sick to not be in the lineup tomorrow," Yeo said.
With forwards going in-and-out of the lineup, the Wild still without three regulars in Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine, and Tyler Graovac, and Minnesota losing 32 man games this season, the Wild's lineup has not always been what it drew up during training camp.
"We have a number of guys out, and for the most part, we've been going along pretty good," Yeo said. "We didn't play a good enough game last game. Regardless of who's in the lineup, who's out of the lineup, we have to get back to getting on top of our game, and giving ourselves the best chance."
That next opportunity will come Thursday night at TD Garden against the Bruins and NHL's top power play. After losing in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and giving up two power-play goals, Yeo said the Wild put itself on the penalty kill too often (Minnesota took six minors).
"I just don’t think we're on it right now," Yeo said of the penalty kill. "We're missing some guys. Zach is a guy that's one of our top killers. We try not to use him if we have a full group, but obviously not having Haula last night; Fontaine is a very important penalty killer for us. I'd be very curious to see what our penalty-kill percentage is when he's in the lineup compared to when he's not.
"The fact of the matter is we have to step it up."
This season, the Wild has killed off 84.2 percent of penalties with Fontaine in the lineup (16-of-19) versus 66.7 percent without him (16-of-24).
"Because some pucks have gone in the net, we've gotten a bit more passive in our approach," Yeo said. "We're doing some things okay in-zone, but recognizing triggers, doing a better job off faceoffs—you look at how many goals have been quick off faceoffs going in the net against us. You look at how many goals where we give easy entries with our PK forecheck; we can do a better job there."
Ryan Suter also brought up zone entries after the Pittsburgh game, and said the Wild is letting the opposition in too easily, which affords them more space and time to set up.
A power-play goal put the Wild behind 2-1 in the first period against Pittsburgh, before the Penguins' second power-play goal made it a 4-1 deficit.
Minnesota has trailed in the first period or conceded the first goal in all but one of its nine road games this season (the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Arizona on Oct. 15).
"It's a bad trait we have going right now," Suter said. "Giving up the first couple of goals, and then trying to fight our way back."
After morning skate on Tuesday, Jason Zucker said, "There's no secret to it; we have to make sure we're ready, and locked in, and ready to play our game."
Yeo said the Wild needs better starts to games, and not even specifically to what's happening on the scoreboard.
"I'm talking about just us getting to our game," Yeo said. "Sometimes they might score, sometimes we might score, but there's just a feel to the game when we're playing it the right way.
"There's a flow to it, and there's none of that flow right now. Our execution is not good enough."
KFAN Wild Weekly
This week Kevin Falness is joined by Mikael Granlund at 7 p.m. on tonight's Wild Weekly radio show.