After the Wild's optional practice Wednesday, players fielded lots of questions about the upcoming All-Star break. But just down the hall at Xcel Energy Center, St. Louis players were preparing for their afternoon workout, giving the Wild a reminder not to look past the last game left before their long weekend.
Not that they really needed it. The Wild remained sharply focused on Thursday's game against the Blues at Xcel, knowing there is more to be gained than two points. With the team perched atop the Western Conference, the Wild wants to go into the break with confidence and momentum, knowing there is much more work to be done.
A dozen players practiced on Wednesday, with veterans such as Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville taking the day off.
"We'll take it,'' forward Charlie Coyle said of the upcoming long weekend. "We'll recharge, get a physical and mental break. It will be good for us. But we've got to take care of this game, and I think that’s our focus right now.
"It's one thing to be (in first place) right now and to get to this spot. But it's another thing to stay there and be there come playoff time and get that home ice. That’s something we want to do, and we're capable of it. That's our goal. We're going to take it one game at a time here. We'll use the break to our advantage when it comes, and just come right back and do what we can.''
Coyle said coach Bruce Boudreau has been great at keeping that next-game mentality foremost in players' minds. The Wild's first-half success already has earned a prize for Boudreau, who will coach the Central Division team in Sunday's All-Star Game. Suter and Dubnyk also will participate.
Boudreau said he hasn't thought ahead to the All-Star Game, except when he's been sitting at home and his son has gotten out his autograph book. He has, however, thought about how he wants the Wild to use the break. He said he wishes his players would "sit at home and watch TV,'' but he isn't expecting that to happen.
"There's not a lot of time, only three days, to be doing an awful lot of stuff,'' he said. "It's just getting away from hockey. It's not really resting and relaxing, because usually, you pack a lot of things into three days. You're more active than you would be normally.
"The big thing is when they come back, wanting to play the game again. I know any athlete, or any hockey player for sure, that when they’ve been away from the game for a couple days, they can't wait to get back, because they miss it.''
One player move was made Wednesday, when the Wild sent forward Christoph Bertschy back to Iowa.