The Wild, 10-1-2 in its past 13 on the road and winners of six straight on the road, a team that hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 19-20, will have a bigtime test Saturday night in St. Louis.
The Scottrade Center has been a house of horrors. Minnesota is 2-7-2 in its past 11 there (shootout wins) and hasn’t won in regulation there since Oct. 20, 2007 (13 visits ago).
As Ryan Suter said after this 2-1 loss to Anaheim tonight, the Wild can’t afford to lose two straight this time of year.
Devyn Dubnyk said he’ll be ready to start. Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t divulging his preliminary thoughts, and I’d be very surprised if Darcy Kuemper gets the start. Wild’s only two up on L.A. and three up on ninth-place Winnipeg.
With 14 games left, the Wild’s not in a position right now to be throwing in a goalie that hasn’t started since Jan. 6. But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
Frustrating game tonight at Xcel Energy Center as Minnesota suffered a sixth straight one-goal defeat to the Ducks on home ice and is now 1-8-1 in its past 10 against Anaheim.
The Wild had plenty of chances to win. It outshot Anaheim 33-24 and out-attempted the Ducks 57-41, including 15 shots that missed the net and nine that were blocked. And that doesn’t include the so many chances that either slid off sticks or were swung and missed.
The turning point of the game came 2:14 after Zach Parise’s power-play goal tied the score at 1-1 in the second period. On a 4-on-4, Matt Dumba, who has been so good lately, backhanded a pass into the slot rather than chipping it up the boards or doing something safer with it. Ryan Kesler, who had two assists tonight, deflected it to Simon Despres, and the defenseman wristed it on net for a Jakob Silfverberg deflection and go-ahead goal, the eventual winner.
“Just a bad play by me,” Dumba said. “I got a little caught in headlights there. … I’ve got to do a better job to make a hard play there. I can’t do that and it cost us tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be stronger.”
Yeo wasn’t blaming Dumba.
“He’ll be fine. We’re not down on him,” Yeo said. “That’s a mistake I’ve seen veteran players make, too. To expect him to be perfect is completely unfair. He’s been playing great hockey for us. He doesn’t have to try to make up for that mistake now. He’s got enough in the bank that he should be able to just flush that one.”
The power play, despite tying the game once, was a huge disappointment yet again.
Nine seconds after the Wild failed to score on a second power play in the first period, Francois Beauchemin scored the game’s first goal.
Then twice after Silfverberg’s go-ahead goal, the Wild had a chance to tie on the power play. Both times it couldn’t muster up the tying goal.
The No. 1 unit continues to be Parise, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville. The No. 2 unit is now Chris Stewart (replaced Charlie Coyle after the trade), Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Dumba and Jared Spurgeon (replaced Jonas Brodin after he came back from injury).
The only personnel change I’ve noticed was 27 seconds into one power play tonight, Dumba replaced Vanek and Pominville moved down from the point. Vanek moved to the second unit just on that one power play. Was a situational change on an offensive-zone draw.
Now, the power play has scored in consecutive games and there have been two goals lately from the No. 2 unit that came just as power plays expired, but the Wild’s 28th-ranked power play is 3 for its past 33 over the past 14 games. It ranks 29th on the road.
“We’re talking more and more about it,” Yeo said before noting the Wild has almost no practices these days because of the condensed schedule the need to recover after games. “It hasn’t been an issue because we’ve been winning games. We’ve been reluctant to make too many switches partly because we don’t have the practice time to give everybody the feel before they go into the game. But certainly it’s something going forward that we’re going to have to address. This time of year, one goal is huge. We generated enough power plays to hopefully have a chance to get one more goal.”
Yeo said, “It’s the kind of game we expected. Every time we play them, it’s got that feel that one play is going to make the difference. I think that’s hockey this time of year. There’s a fine line and every game’s going to be tight. Team’s are all playing for something. We’re pretty close to playoff hockey right now, and that’s what you’re facing.
“I don’t think we could be too down. Obviously it stinks not getting two points, but we have to keep things in perspective. We did a lot of good things. The message to the group is not going to change. We have to come back every day and try to get better these last 14 games” and try to build their game.
Dubnyk said he was screened on the first goal tonight. He sold a call on a Corey Perry rough that led to the Parise goal because it negated a Ducks power play and led to a Wild one. I felt he embellished and so apparently did the Ducks bench.
“Their bench was yelling at me for the second one,” Dubnyk said, bristling. “I don’t understand what they’re yelling about. You go to play a puck and get blindsided shoulder to forehead and I’m not supposed to be surprised and put my head back? Apparently next time I’ll brace my neck and just take the full blow of it.
“Hit me right in the forehead.”
Dubnyk said it stunk giving up the go-ahead goal so soon after Parise tied the game because it’s a position the Wild is comfortable playing in. “We played pretty well. We had a lot of chances to tie it. Another night we’ll probably tie that game up and win it.
“I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. I’m planning on playing every game from here on out and if they tell me otherwise, that’s’ great. That’s not up to me.”
One thing we know, it’s not Niklas Backstrom starting. They weren’t packing Backstrom’s gear since he backed up tonight and it’s Kuemper’s turn (unless he gets the start).
I have a morning flight to St. Louis. If the Wild skates, I land in the middle of it, so I’ll tweet and blog once there’s news. If the Wild chooses not to go to the rink, Yeo is usually available around 5 p.m.