After Wild players took a day off Monday to clear their heads, they returned to the ice Tuesday for a practice at Xcel Energy Center. They spent much of the 40-minute workout tuning up their power play and their ability to get to the net, and they were assembled into new lines that may or may not reflect what coach Bruce Boudreau will do in Wednesday's Game 4 in St. Louis. The Wild, who trail 0-3 in the best-of-seven series, came home for the two days between Games 3 and 4 and flew back to St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday's line combos were as follows: Coyle-Staal-Granlund, Niederreiter-Koivu-Parise, Zucker-Hanzal-Pominville, Stewart-Eriksson Ek-White/Schroeder. Erik Haula did not participate in practice. Boudreau said Haula was taking a "maintenance day,'' though he added that Haula's status was "questionable'' for Game 4. Haula took a couple of nasty hits in Game 2 from Scottie Upshall and Alex Pietrangelo, and he sat out Saturday's practice.
Boudreau was cagey about the new lines. In his post-practice remarks, he said the groupings simply reflected his power-play units. "I just kept them in the same (practice jersey) color, because we weren't doing anything exceptional except going to the net,'' he said. "Those aren't necessarily the lines that are going to be playing tomorrow.''
In post-practice interviews with the players, though, many assumed those were the trios. If they are, it will mark the first time since Nov. 25 that Granlund and Koivu did not skate on the same line.
"Sometimes the coaches, they do those decisions, and it's for the good and whatever they think can help us,'' Koivu said. "Us players, we know each other. It's been a long year, even if you haven't played with (some teammates). I've played with Zach before. I've played with Nino before. We've just got to do the right things. It doesn't matter who you play with.''
Granlund said, "It was nice to try something new. We'll see what it's going to be tomorrow. Let's just go to work tomorrow. Everybody knows each other, and it's not that big of a deal that we practiced with that line. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.''
The mood in the locker room Tuesday was positive, with players saying they must contain their focus to Game 4. One critical key will be to create more traffic in front of Blues goalie Jake Allen. They worked on that skill for much of their practice, and Zach Parise said the WIld must make a greater commitment to it.
"Every goalie in the league is good, so you've got to get in their eyes,'' Parise said. "We can do a much better job of that.''
Russo was at the Blues' practice in St. Louis this morning and reports one potentially significant development. Center Paul Stastny, who has been sidelined throughout the first round because of a foot injury, practiced on Tuesday for the first time since he was injured by a Vladimir Tarasenko shot on March 21.
"Paul is day-to-day, same as he was the other day- ... to-days,'' Blues coach Mike Yeo quipped. When Yeo was asked if Stastny might play Wednesday, he responded, "Well, every day is a new day.''
Yeo said it appeared Stastny had maintained his conditioning and timing during his forced layoff. Several players were thrilled at his potential return, saying his faceoff skill, passing and size will be major assets.
Winger Alex Steen sat out Tuesday's practice. He was hurt in Game 1, and Russo reports he was seen wearing a walking boot on his left foot after Game 3 and left the arena wearing a flip-flop after Game 2. Yeo said Steen will play Wednesday.