Rachel Blount here, filling in for Russo at Thursday's Wild practice. Two days after that ginormous victory over LA, the relief still was evident on the ice and in the locker room. Several players were quick to note that the team hasn't locked up anything yet--that could happen as soon as tonight, when a Columbus loss to Dallas in regulation would put the WIld into the playoffs--but the pressure certainly was eased by Tuesday's 2-1 win.
The only downer for the Wild is the injury to Jason Pominville. He didn't practice today after being leveled by a Dustin Brown elbow to his head in Tuesday's game. Coach Mike Yeo said he didn't have an update on Pominville's health, other than to say he is day-to-day. Mike Rupp participated fully in practice, though he isn't certain whether he will be ready to rejoin the lineup Friday against Edmonton at Xcel Energy Center. Rupp said he was encouraged by how he felt Thursday, but he doesn't want to be a liability. He and Yeo will talk after Friday' s morning skate to assess his condition.
Yeo will be watching tonight's Columbus-Dallas game on TV. Zach Parise will not, but he will keep tabs on it. Both of them stressed that the Wild must remained focused on its own business. Even if it gets that playoff berth via a Columbus loss, there is still plenty at stake. Yeo said the Wild must treat Friday's game as a must-win, and Parise said it is important for the Wild to be at its best.
"We still need to lock up a good seed,'' Parise said. "More importantly, we want to make sure we're playing the right way and we're getting good habits going into the playoffs.You don’t want to just kind of limp in.''
Parise said one key to the LA victory was the pressure the Wild forwards put on the Kings as they were breaking out of their zone. The Kings, he said, often make opponents feel as if they are playing against nine guys at the same time; Tuesday, the Wild applied that same kind of pressure. "Our forwards did a really good job of coming back,'' he said. "That good back pressure lets our D stay up a little more, and we're in their face more. And once we're in their face more, we get the puck back and then go back on the attack. We did that really well against LA, better than I think we've done it all season. I hope we saw how effective it was and that we can keep playing like that.''
Yeo liked the emotional balance he has seen in recent days. On Tuesday, he said, the Wild was sharp and focused without being uptight. He views that as the ideal mindset. "What has impressed me the last couple days with this group is that we've acted like we've been here before,'' he said. "It's important that you're intense and you're ready to play the game. But there has to be a certain degree of looseness and confidence to the way you approach the games, and I felt we had that.''