The performance of the penalty kill wasn’t a problem in either of the Wild’s last two losses.
It’s the amount of times the unit has been ushered into duty, however, that’s been a concern, with a parade to the box headlining the 4-1 setback to the Blackhawks Sunday at United Center.
“You can’t take six penalties and win,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s an impossibility. We’re trying to use guys, the third and fourth line basically, to kill penalties to save our other guys. But sometimes it’s still hard when you’re killing all those penalties, and you’re trying to get into the rhythm of a game.”
For the second straight game, the Wild put the opposition on the power play six times. And although the Blackhawks were as unsuccessful as the Oilers were in a 3-2 win over the Wild Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, both teams capitalized on other upsides – chiefly momentum and zone time.
The latter wasn’t wasted by the Blackhawks, as 14 of their 46 shots (roughly 30 percent) came with the man advantage.
Spotless play by the penalty killers is the silver lining, but putting the unit on the ice this much is risky – especially with the NHL’s No.1 power play in the Lightning at the conclusion of this road trip.
“We can't be doing that to ourselves, kind of shooting ourselves in the foot,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “It takes away a lot of rhythm out of the game, so that sucks. We know we have to be more disciplined.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Blackhawks.
- Defenseman Jared Spurgeon is back in the mix after returning to the lineup Sunday following a nine-game absence due to a groin strain.
Spurgeon played 23 minutes, 20 seconds, finished a minus-1 and blocked three shots.
“It was his first game,” Boudreau said. “You can see the excitement; his first couple shifts were great. He was probably a little bit rusty, but overall Jared Spurgeon’s a great player.”
With this his first game since the end of November, the pace of play was quick for Spurgeon so he tried to simplify his approach and avoid fancy plays. He was the one who made the ill-timed line change that helped spring Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane for a breakaway on the game-winning goal, but getting Spurgeon back is still a major lift for the blue line.
“It felt good to be back out there,” Spurgeon said. “Obviously you'd like to make a difference and [have] the team come out with a win. But I was happy to be back."
- Dumba continued his offensive tear of late, scoring his third goal in his last two games.
All three of those goals have been the Wild’s lone production in those contests and while more help is certainly needed, having Dumba on a roll is encouraging.
“It just seems like they're going in right now for me,” said Dumba, who has six goals on the season. “I'm lucky to have that.”
- The loss to the Blackhawks was the Wild’s second straight loss, a short slide but one that has the potential to snowball and sabotage the momentum the team built with a recent four-game run.
Being on the road, however, could help correct that, as the Wild rebounded from a loss at the outset of its California road trip earlier this month to win the remaining games.
“We were playing great at home obviously, but situations like this I think the road’s great,” goalie Alex Stalock said. “We’re away. It’s just the guys. We can meet or whatever it’s going to take, a skate, a meeting or just something fun to do. That whole streak, we went out to Pelican Hill and we had fun out there in Anaheim. We played great. So I think it’s just something like that, get together as guys and figure it out.”