The day after a deflating shootout loss to Edmonton, Wild coach Mike Yeo and forward Zach Parise voiced different opinions on the state of the team’s chemistry. While Yeo said his team must continue seeking the synchronicity it has lacked since the roster changes it made at the trade deadline, Parise said chemistry is not an issue, calling Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat simply an “off night.’’
The two did agree that the Wild should not overreact. Wednesday, Yeo left his line combinations alone during a lively practice at Braemar Arena, though he plans to evaluate them again before Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center. And Parise urged his team not to dwell on Tuesday’s clunker of a loss or its current 0-1-2 stretch, but on the form it demonstrated before the Edmonton game, which he said gives him reason for optimism.
Yeo emphasized that the Wild has no time to mope. On Monday, it begins an 18-day span in which eight of 10 games will be played on the road, a daunting prospect with Dallas and Phoenix edging closer in the playoff race. That makes it even more imperative for the team to finish the current homestand with a flourish, as it faces the Rangers on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday.
“Those things happen from time to time,’’ Yeo said of Tuesday’s loss, in which the Wild surrendered a 3-0 lead and failed to capitalize on two critical power plays. “We have to have the mentality this time of year that we can’t let it happen anymore.
“It doesn’t matter whether we won, we lost, shootout or overtime, whatever, we have to come to the rink every day trying to get better. When we’re doing that, when we’re on top of our game, that’s when we’ll start to see things start to come together and start to see consistency in our game.’’
Finding that consistency, Yeo said, will happen when the Wild regains the chemistry disrupted by the personnel changes. He restated his confidence in the current roster and cited the shootout loss to St. Louis on Sunday — a game Yeo called one of the Wild’s best in “a long period of time’’ — as proof that the team is not far from clicking back into gear.
As much as he liked the addition of forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick, acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline, Yeo said he immediately told his team that it would have work to do. He understood it would take time for the new players to blend into the lineup, at even strength and on the power play. Forward Mikko Koivu also had to reintegrate after returning March 3 from a two-month injury layoff.
Their lack of unity was especially apparent on the power play in Tuesday’s loss. The Wild mustered only one shot on goal during an 84-second five-on-three in the second period and was equally punchless during a four-on-three at the beginning of overtime.
The team spent much of Wednesday’s practice working on those situations. Yeo said he saw improved puck movement during that focused, energetic session, reinforcing his belief that repetition will build the familiarity that forms the basis of a harmonious team.
“You’re almost starting from scratch again to build your team game,’’ he said. “The only way to build chemistry is to go out and do the things your teammates are expecting you to do, and know they’re doing [the same] for you.
“The harder you work at it, the quicker it comes. The players know we have to keep working at it. We’re not that far off. It’s a matter of bringing it game after game, and that’s where we’re working to get to.’’
Parise and Moulson both said communication is key, and both said the Wild is good at that. Parise, in fact, does not view team chemistry as an issue.
He was loath to list any excuses for Tuesday’s loss, nor did he see it as an indication of trouble. Though Parise continued to lament the Wild’s lack of late enthusiasm in a game it needed to win, he saw the defeat as an anomaly.
“I don’t think there’s a chemistry problem at all,’’ he said. “Prior to [Tuesday], we’d been playing some pretty decent hockey. After you lose a bad one, it’s pretty easy to forget all the good stuff we had going on and focus on the negative stuff. In all reality, we’re fine.’’
Yeo said he plans to start goaltender Darcy Kuemper against the Rangers, despite a sub-par game against the Oilers. Kuemper, he said, has the ability to rebound quickly, something he hopes will rub off.
“We’ll see if he can continue to do what he’s done, and that’s bounce back after a game like that,’’ Yeo said. “That’s what we’re looking for from our entire group.’’