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Postgame: Wild lucky to get point in shootout loss

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • December 18, 2011 - 9:05 AM

Update: As I alluded below, I hear through the grapevine two forwards will be recalled later this afternoon. The guys I am hearing are Eden Prairie's Chad Rau and Jed Ortmeyer. If Rau plays, it'll be his NHL debut and he'd be the team-record 11th rookie to play this season. If both play, the Wild will have used 35 players this season in 34 games. Absurd.

Kent Youngblood will cover practice, so he'll have injury updates. Roster moves like won't happen until 4 p.m.

As I often say, I've covered few coaches as honest as Mike Yeo, so give the guy credit for not painting a pretty picture on the ugliness that took place on the ice tonight. It would have been to easy to use the injuries as an excuse or let Cal Clutterbuck's tying goal hide the fact that the Wild just didn't bring it tonight, but an edgy, ticked-off Yeo didn't let the current cast of Wild players -- as depleted as this team is -- off the hook for a 2-1 shootout loss to the lowliest of NHL teams -- the New York Islanders.

This was an opponent dead last in the East, on a four-game losing streak -- a team that was 0-6 in overtimes and shootouts and hadn't even scored a shootout goal in two previous shootouts this season.

But the Wild didn't show up in the first two periods. I mean, in the first two periods, Jarod Palmer and Jared Spurgeon had SEVEN of the Wild's NINE shots!!! In the first period, the Wild had five shots, and Palmer's one was the only one by a FORWARD!!!

The Colton Gillies-Warren Peters-Palmer did try hard, setting a tone physically, trying to bring momentum. And they for the most part accomplished that. But most of the rest? Blah.

Well, blah, except for Nik Backstrom, who made 35 saves and got the Wild this point. Depleted lineup or not, the Wild didn't lose this game because of the minor leaguers. Most the vets didn't show, which to me is what disappointed the hierarchy.

I can see a couple bodies shuffling between here and Houston on Sunday though. You can't have a performance like tonight and not react in some way. Cody Almond's done little the last few, so maybe he heads back and they bring up some forwards.

At one point tonigh on an icing in the second period, Yeo called time to let his gassed players rest. But during that time, Yeo took the opportunity to animatedly let his players know what he thought of their effort and execution.

"The direction we were going, it needed to change," Yeo said. "After the second period, it turned around, but it’s tough to flip a switch."

The Wild did look like a different team to start the third. It began getting pucks deep, generating chances off cycles and speed through the neutral zone. Finally, the team that hasn’t been shut out this year struck with the tying goal.

It began with a Matt Cullen forecheck that created an Al Montoya quick pass to Mark Streit and turnover. Dany Heatley picked off the puck, fired it on net and Clutterbuck found the rebound and scored his ninth goal.

But minus Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi, Guillaume Latendresse and Casey Wellman, the Wild just didn't have it tonight, and of course, a few of those guys would have been useful in the shootout. Frankly, after Kyle Brodziak's shootout-winning move last month in Edmonton, I'd start using him in these extra sessions.

Anyway, the Wild is 0-1-2 in its past 3 -- its first three-game winless streak of the season. But it's still clinging to the top spot in the NHL and the West by a point and has points in 19 of its past 24 (17-5-2).

This would be my concern heading into a three-game road trip to all divisional opponents. Often times when you lose this many guys, the guys that remain in the lineup start freelancing, abandon the system, try to make fancy, individual players and suddenly forget what the team did that made its successful in the first place.

That's what I saw on the ice tonight. The Wild must be wary that even after it gets some of these guys back, the guys that remained in the lineup during the interim don't suddenly forget the system and how this team must play to win.

That's getting pucks behind D, grinding it out on forechecks, being responsible with the puck, being hard on the puck and being tight in the neutral zone and D-zone. We saw zero of that tonight.

Koivu and Setoguchi will be on the road trip. I can't imagine Setoguchi plays. He hasn't practiced at all since getting hurt in San Jose. Koivu, he tested his injury today and my guess, and this is a pure guess, is that he plays in Calgary (Tuesday, or day after Vancouver) only because I don't see him playing back-to-back games.

Again, total guess. Kent Youngblood is covering practice Sunday and he'll let you know if Koivu practices while I'm in the air to Vancouver.

Bouchard was very close to playing tonight, Yeo said, but he went from a gametime decision to not even skating in warmups. Yeo said the Wild must make sure Bouchard is completely comfortable that he is OK and can do the things he needs to do on the ice before it allows him to play.

Wellman's practicing and perhaps the extra game off and few days will help improve his injury so he can shoot the puck and be put into the lineup in Vancouver. The Wild could certainly use his speed and shot.

Palmer tried to bring that type of game tonight and he had six of the Wild's 21 shots. His line had a combined 10. He nearly scored the overtime winner, too. Yeo called him arguably the team's best forward.

No offense to the lad because he was good, but that's an indictment of the players who have been on the team more than anything.

The team is depleted. This is the time these guys need to step up. Didn't happen tonight.

Tidbits:

--Clutterbuck has seven goals and 13 points in his past 15 games.

--131-104-27 Wild's record with Mikko Koivu; 6-8-3 without him (since 2008-09)

--5 Wild players have played all 33 games (Brodziak, Heatley, Powe, Schultz, Spurgeon)
 
--Clarification on the Charlie Coyle situation: The Wild was never willing to sign Coyle and place him now in Houston. If he left Boston University, he would have had to go play major junior or Europe. The Wild would never want a 19-year-old to leave college for the AHL.

Youngblood Sunday, I'll be back with ya after the morning skates Monday in Vancouver. I'll be XM Home Ice at 9:45 a.m. CT Monday and the Team 1040 in Vancouver at 7:30 p.m. CT Monday.

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