Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck and Chicago's Nick Leddy scramble for control of the puck.

David Brewster, Star Tribune


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Snoozing and losing: Wild drops one to Chicago

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • March 1, 2011 - 8:32 AM

In the days leading to the NHL trade deadline, Chuck Fletcher said he didn't want to do anything to adversely affect the chemistry of the Wild locker room.

The trade deadline came and went Monday, Fletcher, the team's general manager, indeed left that cohesion alone, and the Wild responded by cohesively sleepwalking through the first two periods of a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center.

"For whatever reason, we didn't have the energy through two periods," Wild coach Todd Richards said.

Before a thwarted third-period comeback, Wild players looked as if they spent the afternoon watching TSN's "TradeCentre" rather than taking their afternoon naps.

Maybe the Wild, which began the game seventh in the Western Conference and ended in ninth, was drained from a nerve-racking day.

"I hope everybody felt pretty comfortable in our room the way we've been playing. We've been playing pretty well," said defenseman Greg Zanon, adding, "We thought maybe a move would have been made, but it is what it is, and this is what we've got. We've got what we need in here."

Asked if that meant players were looking for help in this desperate playoff push (the Wild's only move was trading minor league goalie Anton Khudobin), Zanon said, "You just read what you see in the paper. Nothing was ever said in the room or nobody said anything to the players. This is what we've got. We're happy with what we've got. We've been playing well with what we've got, and this is what's going to get us to that next level."

Asked if he felt players were disappointed no moves were made, defenseman Nick Schultz said: "You want to get better, you want to add guys, but you look at the price that teams were paying for guys, it's pretty steep. Now teams are built from draft picks and young players, so it's tough.

"We don't know what goes on up there. I think it's smart to build your team in the summer. We're where we are right now because of the guys in the locker room, not somebody we could have added. We're confident in the guys we have."

At least early, the game looked fast to some players and goalie Niklas Backstrom, who has been so good for a month, looked to be fighting the puck.

"It looked like we were giving them too much respect," former Blackhawk Martin Havlat said. "They were skating, and we were watching them."

Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists, Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist, and Corey Crawford made 24 saves, many when the Wild was gaining momentum. Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks.

Brent Burns scored his team-record 16th goal for a defenseman with 4:12 left to make an exciting finish. But the Wild, after drawing a power play a minute later, couldn't tie it despite great looks. Finally, Pierre-Marc Bouchard made a diving stab at saving a puck at the blue line. He actually did, but Toews took off on a 2-on-1 with Hossa, who scored a shorthanded dagger.

The Wild was outmatched from a skill component, and as Richards said, "We helped them out by turnovers and not making the right decisions with the puck."

Six days earlier, the Wild was fifth in the West. Now it's on the playoff periphery. The trade deadline has gone, meaning the only help on the way is the eventual returns of Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse.

"I don't know what the players believe. I know what I believe. I think we have the team that can do it," Richards said. "Without a question, talking with Chuck, we made the right choices. We feel the best acquisitions we're going to get are [Koivu and Latendresse]."

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