Good day from the land of ChAHlie Coyle, Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk, Tom Fitzgerald, angry-Wild-fan tweeting Jeremy Roenick, and my sports editor, Glen Crevier.
The Wild, still depleted because of injury and once again illness, practiced down at Coyle’s old barn, Boston University, today.
Wild prospects Alex Tuch and Adam Gilmour from Boston College and Jordan Greenway from Boston University watched practice with GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr, then toured the locker room, met players and reunited with coach Mike Yeo.
Greenway joked that Tuch and Gilmour had to take of their Eagles jackets to enter the Terriers’ house.
I chatted with all three (Tuch and Gilmour by phone Tuesday) and wrote a story on them for Thursday’s story. Each talked about his future with the Wild, so check out that article. All three plan to attend Thursday’s Wild-Bruins game.
The one thing you notice about all three? They’re big. The 6-5 Greenway is gigantic and built like a linebacker. Tuch and Gilmour are each 6-4. Safe to say the Wild has a need for big forwards, wouldn’t you agree?
Every November and December, it seems like the Wild’s infiltrated with some kind of plague. Last year, it was the mumps and norovirus. This year, it appears as if a stomach bug is crawling through the team. A couple other NHL teams have also been affected, and maybe it’s going around because Tuch told me his Eagles team was beat up by a bug.
Erik Haula missed Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh. Ryan Carter missed today’s practice. Haula felt a lot better today, worked out and was scheduled to catch a late Wednesday flight to Boston to meet the Wild and likely play the Bruins.
Yeo is listing Carter as questionable: “I know Carts, he would have to be awfully sick to not be in the lineup tomorrow.”
I asked if any of these players had swollen glands (i.e. mumps), and Yeo said, “No. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s always this time of year. It’s ridiculous. I don’t know how we can do something different in November to prevent this, but it is what it is. Injuries, illness, whatever it is, you have to find a way to get through it and you have to find a way to play your best hockey.”
Players do get flu shots.
Asked if this is a reason why the Wild has looked at times like it lacks energy in games (others have been affected by this bug that hasn’t missed games), Yeo said there’s no excuses, that, “I don’t think we were good enough game last game [in Pittsburgh] regardless of who’s in and out of the lineup.”
Yeo said the Wild has done a ton to allow players to keep their energy up, like a lot more optionals on game-days, especially if the Wild practices the day before.
“I just think it’s this time of year where you have to find a way to dig in and push a little harder,” Yeo said. “It’s not the beginning of the season anymore where everything’s fresh and full of excitement. … But this is a crucial time in the season.”
As I said on last night’s blog, Nino Niederreiter wasn’t suspended for his check that injured Olli Maatta. Again, it may have been unnecessary and needless, but that type of shove is something that occurs all the time and it was not directed into the boards. The league felt the door opening caused the injury, and it should reengage the talk of maybe not allowing doors to open during play.
Maatta has an upper-body injury, although some Wild players were stunned by that, saying they thought he hurt his hip and couldn’t put any weight on his leg going down the tunnel.
In the past seven road games, the Wild has held a lead for 1 minute, 12 seconds (0.3 percent), trailed for 258:35 (59.6 percent) and was tied for 174:06 (40.1 percent). It’s 1-3-3 in those games.
Yeo said simply the Wild’s starts are not good enough. He said it’s taking too much time for the Wild to get to its game, and that ultimately builds momentum and creates frustration on the bench. He said the Wild knows the gameplan and must execute it better.
He was happy to see Mikael Granlund score last night, snapping a 13-game drought. Jason Pominville has gone 17 games without a goal. If he doesn’t score against Boston, it’ll be the longest drought of his career.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We need those guys to score,” Yeo said.
The penalty kill is also a disaster.
It has sunk to 29th in the NHL (74.5 percent), allowing a power-play goal in nine games and allowing five in the past four.
“I don’t think we’re on it,” Yeo said. “We’re missing some guys, … [Zach Parise], Haula, [Justin] Fontaine is a very important penalty killer for us. … The fact of the matter is we’ve got to step it up.”
He repeated what he said last night, that he thinks the Wild has gotten more passive and cautious because of the goals against. He said they’re doing OK things in the zone, but it needs to be better on faceoffs and they’re allowing too many easy entries with their PK forecheck.
Also, a “huge part of it” is the amount of times the Wild fails to clear the zone. Look at the Beau Bennett goal late in the first Tuesday night. The Wild probably had the puck on it stick six times.
“If you don’t clear it the first time, there’s probably a real good chance that something bad’s going to happen. If you do that two or three times, it’s probably going to be good night,” Yeo said.
Huge test tomorrow. The Bruins may be 2-6-1 at home, allowing five goals or more in five of those games. But their power play is connecting at a ridonkulous 35.2 percent and they have scored the third-most goals per game in the NHL (3.18).
Back in Minnesota, Parise and Fontaine continue to skate on their own, which Yeo called, “encouraging.”
Coyle will play his third game at Boston on Thursday. He has one assist in two games. His dad, Chuck, took in today’s practice, then drove him home to East Weymouth for a family dinner with mom and his sisters. Tomorrow, the family and friends rented a bus again and he expects 50 people at the game.
He played at BU for 1 ½ years before leaving to go play Canadian Junior. He said it’s always nice to be back on BU’s campus, but his teammates wanted him to put money on the board in practice and he wouldn’t budge on that. He probably will Thursday (hometown players or players who used to play for that night’s opponent typically puts money on the board with the pool going to the guy who scores the winning goal, etc).
That’s it for me. Thursday, I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission. I’ll be on SiriusXM and NHL Network Radio (Channel 91) at 1:30 p.m. CT and I think Dan Barriero on KFAN at some time in the middle of the afternoon.
Also, Saturday at 4 p.m., the Russo-Souhan Show (malepatternpodcasts.com) returns to Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub. Come on by.
Also, on Dec. 3, the first of four “Star Tribune Fans Night Out” evenings. You can attend the game vs. the Maple Leafs,, attend a pregame Chalk Talk with myself and Mark Parrish and get other goodies. To purchase the package, go to wild.com/fansnightout.