Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom

LM Otero, Associated Press

Goalie coach seeking solution to Backstrom's shootout woes

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • February 7, 2012 - 8:31 PM

COLUMBUS, OHIO - Bob Mason, Niklas Backstrom's goalie coach since 2006, is at a loss as to why the Wild goaltender can be so poised in games, yet when it comes to shootouts, he's like a fish out of water.

"We've tried everything," Mason said. "We've done video, verbal scouting reports, watched video of him. Sometimes too much information is just too much. Sometimes you're thinking a guy might do something and he changes the book on you.

"I think it's just reading and reacting, being patient. When he's patient, he's a little bit tighter in the net, doesn't open up. He practices it a fair amount. He rehearses it in his mind. His preparation is always good on everything. I don't know. We really can't put a finger on why his numbers aren't better than they are."

After giving up two goals in as many attempts in Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss at Dallas, Backstrom fell to 15-28 all-time in shootouts with a .563 save percentage. He has given up 12 goals on 22 shots this season and has a 3-4 record. Josh Harding is 7-6 all-time with a .690 save percentage. He has given up three goals on 10 shots this season and is 2-2.

The coaches have debated replacing Backstrom with Harding in shootouts. Asked if that's risky because it might shake Backstrom's confidence, Mason said: "If we ever try that, they're going to know before the game happens. It's not like he would look at the bench and Hards is getting his gear on."

But Mason said the Wild is not at that point.

"We're trying to get him better through practice work, video work and technique," Mason said of Backstrom. "He gets impatient in shootouts. Let the shooter make the first move and react to that. We'll just keep working on it because we need to get some wins in those things."

Koivu back Thursday?

Wild captain Mikko Koivu is getting close to a return from a shoulder injury, but he missed his eighth game in a row in Tuesday's 3-1 loss at Columbus.

"He wants to play, but he needs a couple more days," coach Mike Yeo said. "We're fairly confident that Thursday [against Vancouver] could be a good target date for us, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."

Setoguchi on third line

With two goals in 11 games since returning from a knee injury Jan. 4, Devin Setoguchi was knocked to the third line with Darroll Powe and Erik Christensen Tuesday. That line went minus-2.

Yeo said Setoguchi is pressing.

"You end up circling, you start to anticipate a little bit too much, and next thing you know you find yourself behind the play a lot," Yeo said. "You start moving out into the high slot hoping that somebody's going to find you open for that one-time opportunity instead of getting to the net where those goals are going to come from."

Gillies thankful

Colton Gillies was relegated to fourth-line duty this season with the Wild. Claimed off waivers by Columbus on Jan. 18, the 2007 first-round draft pick faced the Wild on a line with scorers Jeff Carter and Vaclav Prospal.

"I'm so thankful for this opportunity to get ice time and play," said Gillies, who assisted on Carter's third-period goal. "It's just so much more fun when you get to play and get in a rhythm."

Former Wild coach Todd Richards, now the Blue Jackets interim coach, coached Gillies for only seven games in Minnesota. But in summer camps, "you get a good read on their character, and to me, Colton is just that," Richards said. "Character kid. He's not perfect, but he works extremely hard, and usually the work ethic will make up for a lot of the deficiencies."


• Wild winger Brad Staubitz and defenseman Mike Lundin were scratched. Enforcer Matt Kassian re-entered the lineup. Defenseman Clayton Stoner (lower body) didn't travel.

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