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The Wild won its home opener, but players such as Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen (left) are now hearing coach Mike Yeo demand more consistency.

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Lulls grab Yeo's attention

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • October 20, 2011 - 8:21 AM

First-year Wild coach Mike Yeo said he expected this.

You know, the mid-period lulls. Or the sleepwalking -- Yeo's word -- that characterized the first period of Tuesday's loss to an injury-depleted Pittsburgh team.

Yeo doesn't like it one bit. And he promises it will change.

Still, he expected it.

"I knew, to start the season, there would be some inconsistency in our game, whether it's game-to-game, whether it's within the game," he said. "I know that's our toughest challenge as a group -- how do we approach every game with the right urgency, mindset and focus? ... I didn't expect it to happen overnight. That's something you build."

Everyone with the Wild, which has lost four of five, would like the construction process to move quickly. And while the team has pulled a point out of a couple of those losses, the bottom line is that Yeo is seeing too many lapses in execution.

After an overtime loss to Detroit Saturday, Yeo lauded his team's effort. But it sounds as if effort might have been part of the problem in Tuesday's loss.

"For me, effort is a more than skating in a straight line," Yeo said. "It's the second effort and third effort you show me. If you're in on a forecheck and they move the puck somewhere else do you say, 'My job is done?' or do you stay on the hunt, keep pursuing and tracking. ... It's jumping on a loose puck and taking a hit to make a play. It's making a hard play, winning your one-on-one battles. And I don't think it was at the level we needed last night."

But Yeo resisted the temptation to take it out on the players during practice Wednesday. It was a crisp, but brief, workout that focused on breaking out of the defensive zone cleanly and hitting the offensive zone at high speed.

Yeo talked with several players on-one-one during the practice. Yeo said he believes the Wild attack has lost a lot of its speed in recent games and hasn't had the puck in the offensive zone enough.

After practice, he said the players had a "bit of snarl" to them.

"We were a little upset with ourselves, and for me, that's real important," he said.

Snarl perhaps, but not frustration.

"Sometimes we don't work as smart as we need to, in terms of staying with the system and being sharp," center Matt Cullen said. "We just were not sharp [against Pittsburgh]. We have to be crisp in order to get to our forecheck. That's been the issue."

Yeo said solutions won't come overnight.

"We're asking a lot of the players," he said. "And to think you can come in a flip a switch? It doesn't happen. You're changing habits. But it will come. I know that. I know it."

Given the Wild's upcoming schedule, it better happen sooner than later. The Wild plays at Vancouver on Saturday, returns home to play Anaheim, then has a home-and-home with red-hot Detroit.

"We have to be prepared to play the right way," Devin Setoguchi said. "When we're doing that we're as good as anybody in the league. It's just the consistent effort, sticking to a game plan, preparing to start games the right way."

Yeo said it will be a process.

"No team in the league plays their game well for 60 minutes," he said. "But how do we recover from that two-minute span where we've gotten away from it? How do we get back to our game when we've had a bad first period? We have to eliminate the bad games, then eliminate the bad periods, then start to minimize the amount of time things aren't going well."

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