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Matt Cullen

John Ulan, Associated Press

WILD POWER-PLAY STRUGGLES

Up next: 7 p.m. Thursday vs. Anaheim • Xcel Energy Center • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

Yeo trying to jump-start ineffective power play

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • October 25, 2011 - 12:15 AM

Eight games into the season, a firefly holds more voltage than the Wild's power play.

The Wild has gone five games without a power-play goal, stringing together 18 punchless power plays in a row since Devin Setoguchi last scored in the first period at Ottawa on Oct. 11. The Wild owns the NHL's fourth-worst power play, 3-for-31.

Naturally, coach Mike Yeo will spend a large chunk of the next two practices before Thursday's game against Anaheim trying to remedy the situation. He would have started Monday if not for power-play wingers Dany Heatley and Guillaume Latendresse missing practice because of groin injuries.

"We score two, three more power-play goals, what's our record right now?" asked Yeo, referring to the Wild's four one-goal losses (2-1-3).

Yeo said he believes there have been three obstacles in the Wild power play:

1. Lack of shots from the point

Marek Zidlicky is a power-play specialist. Forty-two of the defenseman's 60 career goals and 116 of his 226 assists have come on power plays. He has only eight shots on goal in eight games, and one assist on power plays.

The other point men aren't getting shots, either. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has nine shots in six games, while Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella have combined for 15 in eight games.

This is why Yeo is "strongly considering" moving center Matt Cullen to a power-play point Thursday. Cullen played there the majority of last season. In his first six games last season, he scored three goals and eight points on power plays.

"He does have a shooter's mentality where he is going to be willing to put pucks to the net, and that may not be the only change," Yeo said.

2. Lack of greasy goals

Yeo indicated Kyle Brodziak, or perhaps Nick Johnson, will join the power play as the Wild looks to create more of a net presence. The Wild tried rookie Brett Bulmer in front of the net in Vancouver.

"[Scandella] had an unbelievable shot last game, we move out of the way and the goalie sees the puck," Yeo said. "If that goalie doesn't see that puck, it's in the net for sure. We need to create more secondary opportunities.

"We just have to get more of a dirty-goal mentality. How many dirty goals have we scored this year? How many goals have we scored where we're just getting the puck in the blue paint, we're spearing the goalie, we're chopping at it and we're banging home a puck? We should be able to count on almost one of those game, and we haven't been able to get any yet."

3. Faceoff futility

The Wild ranks 25th in the NHL with a .481 faceoff win percentage. In Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss in Vancouver, the Canucks went 2-for-3 on the power play and went 4-for-4 on power-play faceoffs. The Wild went 0-for-4 on the power play and went 4-for-10 on power-play faceoffs.

Last season, Mikko Koivu won 52.8 percent of his draws, 29th in the NHL. This season, he has won 49.7 percent, ranking 55th. Last season, Cullen won 56.1 percent, 12th best in the NHL. This season, he is at 46.4 percent, ranking 63rd.

"This is a big deal. It's got to be better," Cullen said. "We can't spend 30, 40 seconds a power play chasing the puck. Especially against good teams like Vancouver and Detroit, you lose a faceoff at the beginning of a shift, you may not get it back. We have good draw guys in here, too.

"I'm confident we'll be better, but we need to be better now."

Yeo said it's not only the fault of the centermen.

In this week's video sessions, Yeo has pulled clips where "probably five to 10 faceoffs a game we're losing because [our wingers and defensemen] are sleeping."

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