The Wild interrupted a run of four road games for a brief foray home, practicing Monday at Xcel Energy Center before an afternoon flight to Pittsburgh. After a routine workout, coach Mike Yeo delivered the news that Zach Parise has resumed skating on his own, though there is no timetable for his return.
Parise has missed four games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. As the Wild complete the trip with games at Pittsburgh on Tuesday and at Boston on Thursday, Parise will continue skating at home. "He's getting better,'' Yeo said. "We'll see where he's at when we come home from the road trip.''
Tuesday's game at Consol Energy Center marks the Wild's return to the place where it bottomed out last season. A 7-2 loss on Jan. 13--the team's sixth in a row--prompted a closed-door postgame meeting as Yeo called his team "completely lost.'' Players were embarrassed, and Yeo's job status was a topic of daily discussion.
The Wild traded for goaltender Devan Dubnyk the next day, and the Wild has gone 38-12-6 in regular-season games since then. Few players were interested Monday in reminiscing about those dark days, but they spoke about how much the group has evolved in its ability to maintain consistency and roll with the ups and downs within games and throughout a season.
"For the most part, we have the same guys,'' forward Charlie Coyle said. "But I think the mindset is different. Everyone's got a little bit more experience under our belts. We're older and wiser, and we know our team a little bit more, too. We know what to expect from each guy and what each guy has to bring. I think that’s huge.
"We've got great leaders in this locker room who step up and say what needs to be said between periods. I think the experience of each guy and what we've gone through as a team, you just take that with you, and you learn to get through those tough times and battle back.''
Dubnyk noticed another change, too. "We believe in how good we are,'' he said. "It's not that the group has changed a lot. I think we believe and know how good we can be when we play together and play well, and that’s an important thing to have.''
Interestingly, the Penguins held their own closed-door meeting Saturday after a 4-0 loss at New Jersey that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described as the low point of their season. Center Evgeni Malkin told the paper, "We're not playing right. We're not working hard. It's bad penalties. Turnovers. It's everything.''
The Pens have lost two in a row, including a home game to last-place Columbus, and coach Mike Johnston has chided them for a poor work ethic.
One roster move for the Wild on Monday: Brett Bulmer--who was originally recalled Friday, then sent back to Iowa on Sunday after being a healthy scratch in Dallas--was summoned again. Yeo said "there's a greater chance he'll fit into the lineup'' Tuesday at Pittsburgh.
"(Sunday) was a bit different, having to go down for the day and then getting ready to come back,'' said the forward, whom Yeo said earned his recalls with his performances in training camp. "It's all worth it. I'm happy to be here.''