Wild forward Erik Haula looked like he had some pent-up energy to burn off in Friday's practice at Ridder Arena. After sitting out Game 4 in St. Louis--and a pair of practices--because of an injury, Haula went full-bore in Friday's session. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Haula "looks like he's ready to play'' in Game 5, which is Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
There could be a return to the Blues' lineup, too. Paul Stastny had "another good day'' of practice Friday, St. Louis coach Mike Yeo said. Yeo wouldn't tip his hand as to whether Stastny will play Saturday--he still had to talk to him to see how he feels--but the center skated with the top line in practice.
Haula, who was hurt in Game 2 but played in Game 3, said it was agonizing to sit out a potential elimination game Wednesday. The Wild's 2-0 victory extended the best-of-seven series, much to his relief.
"You have no idea,'' Haula said when asked how hard it was to watch Game 4. "I was barely able to watch the game, I was so nervous. The guys did a great job. And I was very relieved and happy after the game, knowing that I might be able to play Saturday and get to be a part of it. Now we just continue.''
Haula said he feels good, and his teammates seemed eager to get on with Game 5. The team did lots of five-on-five work in Friday's practice, along with drills to hone their shooting, tips and rebounds.
Despite the Game 4 win, Boudreau said "the pressure's all on us'' with the Wild still trailing the series 3-1. He and his players continued to say the Wild can be much better, all over the ice. The emphasis Saturday will be on getting pucks behind the Blues and then using the Wild's speed to create turnovers. "If we do that,'' the coach said, "then we have a shot.''
Lines today were: Coyle-Staal-Niederreiter; Parise-Koivu-Granlund; Zucker-Hanzal-Pominville/Schroeder; Stewart-Haula-Eriksson Ek/White.
Some post-practice observations by Wild players:
--Jason Zucker, on the improvements the Wild must make: "I think we can be a lot better. I think our first period (in Game 4) was pretty good. I think we pressured them really hard and played our game. In the second and third, we sat back a little bit. Especially in the third, I think we gave them too much respect and let them play their game without dictating ours. We have to make sure we're playing our game and push for a full 60 minutes.''
--Charlie Coyle, on the momentum that could be gained with a Game 5 win: "I think it's huge. We get that win, and all of a sudden, they're second-guessing. They're still in the driver's seat, but they're second-guessing. The pressure's on, and now they're thinking, 'We're going back home, Game 6; if we lose this one, it's Game 7 back in their barn.' And they're starting to doubt themselves. It's such a mental thing here. That's what you learn as it goes along. We just focus on tomorrow.''
And Mike Yeo on the possibility of having Stastny back:
--"Getting a player back is always nice. It helps to stabilize things, and it gives us a little bit more options. But at the same time, it's not like getting a player back is just the answer and is going to make things better for us. We've lost players, and it's sharpened our focus. Guys have understood that they need to bear down and they need to do their jobs and do the little things. We need to make sure we continue to have that mindset.''