Coming to you from the very chilly press box in an empty Xcel Energy Center, and it’s about as loud as it was for much of tonight’s snoozefest.
Don’t look now, but the Wild is 1-4-1 in its past six, clinging to the second wildcard spot and trying to discover any semblance of its game like often happens this time of year.
Please read the game story and notebook for all the details on startribune.com/wild once it’s up, but the Wild lost 3-1 to Winnipeg, which had lost eight of 10, one game after losing to Vancouver, which had won five of its previous 17.
First the little tidbits:
-- Zach Parise returned tonight, looked rusty and was eventually put on the line with Jason Zucker, who had his troubles with the puck all game, and Mikko Koivu in the third period. Parise had one shot and said he felt behind in his conditioning, which he expected. But he said it was a tough game to create anything since the Wild was chasing the puck all game frankly because players kept passing them to Jets.
-- Darcy Kuemper, who hasn’t started at home since Jan. 6 and hasn’t started this season since Oct. 25, is expected to start Saturday night against the Dallas Stars. We’ll see if the Wild can take advantage of a Dallas team that has to play at home tonight, then fly to Minnesota and arrive in the wee hours of the morning.
Devan Dubnyk, who couldn’t squeeze Dustin Byfuglien’s shot from behind the net (he said it fell off his glove and between his legs), has allowed 35 goals now in the past 13 starts and 50 goals overall in 20 appearances after allowing 68 in 39 starts last season.
-- Justin Fontaine, who sprained his MCL Oct. 30, is expected to return, meaning Kurtis Gabriel should be reassigned and maybe Jordan Schroeder too.
Chris Porter and Ryan Carter were the Wild’s best forwards tonight. No disrespect to them, but that can’t happen and that was absolutely the case tonight.
Wild lacked energy, execution and turned pucks over constantly. Winnipeg kept stacking the blue line with a 1-1-3, and the Wild kept throwing pucks into them rather than chipping and chasing. Just fed right into Winnipeg’s game. Dump and chase takes hard work, and I’m not sure the Wild was willing to exude that work ethic tonight.
The last few weeks, because of the injuries and illnesses, the Wild flooded the team with non NHL-ready minor-leaguers, got some bad efforts by some struggling NHLers and now the team’s lost its game. We’ll see now if the Wild can rediscover it or if it’s about to go into the tank for another December.
But until the Wild gets back to playing tight defensively, playing with speed again and getting that puck out of its zone quickly and seamlessly and up the ice as a unit, convoluted games like this will continue.
The good news is Parise’s back, Fontaine’s about to be back. But man, the Wild missed injured Marco Scandella again tonight. It needed a horse to lug the puck up ice and not just throw it to Jets players over and over again.
Anyhow, I was so unenthused watching this game (not because of the Wild’s performance but just how bad of a game it was to watch), I’m just going to let you read the quotes I transcribed if you don’t mind. Not sure I can write too much more about this one.
-- But Yeo’s quotes were candid, frank and alarming.
He said this was “probably what we need right now to be honest with you. Might sound funny, but I look at the first part of the season, I think our record was a little misleading. I think there were a lot of inconsistencies in our game. I think the early part of the year you get away with that stuff, and you try to show the video and you talk about things and maybe it gets a little bit better, but when you’re winning games, I don’t think those things really sink in. What happens is I think we’re playing the same game probably that we were at the start of the year, but the league gets better and so right now we’re not getting away with those things.”
On the poor puck management: “This has gone on all year. All year. You win a game, have a little success, but you show the clips and you say we’re not going to get away with this, we’re not going to get away with this, … so now it’s not.”
“Disappointed in how we played the game. Your whole season is a series of opportunities to get better as a team and how we face this adversity and how we understand how we’re going to be successful, there’s no better opportunity than right now. The way that we’ve been going is not working. It’s not going to work. The league gets better, and if we get to the playoffs, that will not work in the playoffs. We played two very different games in the playoffs last year. We played the first round the way we’re supposed to, we played the second round the way that we’re playing right now. We just have to decide. If we want to be a good team, there’s a way that we have to play, and it’s not going to be cute. We’re not a cute team.”
“What’s ideal is we have individuals that have to understand that they have to pick their game up, and I’m not talking about goals and assists because that I think is the problem. I think too many guys are just going out there and getting the puck and, ‘Let’s just go get a goal.’ Meanwhile it’s a turnover and meanwhile we keep losing momentum. We need guys to pick their game up in our game. They need to be better in little areas of our game. If it’s time to forecheck, you forecheck. If it’s time to be F3, be F3. If it’s time to execute and make a play, then make the play. We have to get our eyes straight on what those little things are and what our best game looks like and how they can fit into that.”
On how this will change if this has been ongoing for two months: “I don’t expect it to suddenly change. It won’t. This is a good kick in the butt for us right now. Like I’ve said, it’s hard when you’re having some success, and now obviously we’re not. It doesn’t take a real genius to figure out that if you’re not having success, you should probably change and you should probably adjust, and that’s what we need to do.”
-- Connor Hellebuyck, Christian Folin’s former University of Massachusetts-Lowell teammate who backstopped the United States to a bronze medal at the world championships last spring, made 14 saves in his NHL debut as Winnipeg’s goalie Friday.
Folin, the Wild defenseman, called Hellebuyck one of his best friends.
“We had a life skills class my first year,” Folin said. “They said, ‘What’s your goal,’ and he said, ‘I’m going to be in the NHL in two years.’ No one else said anything like that, some guys were thinking about it, but no one really said it out loud.
“That was my first big impression I got of him: ‘This guy hasn’t even played a game yet, and he said he’s going to be in the NHL in two years?’ It took him three years, but he’s here. He’s a great goalie. He led our team. It was awesome to see him out there.”
--Ryan Carter: “We’ve got to find ourselves real fast. We’re not playing our game, we’re not playing with confidence.”
-- Zach Parise: “Felt like you’re chasing the puck all game. It’s tough to make plays, it’s tough to get shots when you never have the puck.
“It was a frustrating game to play, and I’m sure it was a frustrating game to watch as well.
“It feels we’re throwing the puck away a lot, in the neutral zone especially. We’re not making good plays through the neutral zone. It’s making us look slow. It’s getting a lot of plays broken up. For a lot of the game tonight, it felt like we played on two-thirds of the rink. We weren’t really getting it below the top of the circles.
On how he felt: “Physically I felt fine. I felt a little behind in the conditioning, but I was kind of expecting that. It felt like we didn’t really have the puck much. It was tough to really create anything.”
Talk to you after Saturday’s morning skate. Wild will try to salvage the homestand Saturday, so we’ll see if a rusty Kuemper can dust himself off and come to the rescue.