Recent post-victory celebrations in the Wild’s locker room haven’t just included players rewarding each other with a safety helmet as recognition for the player of the game.
The chats have also emphasized the importance of rest, with center Eric Staal and defenseman Ryan Suter bringing up the topic to coach Bruce Boudreau — to a chorus of hoots and hollers from their teammates.
And they seem to be right.
After the team canceled practice last Wednesday and then the morning skate Saturday, the Wild responded with a win both times. Not only that, but the players looked rejuvenated and that helped them shrug off a four-game losing streak.
“We may be joking about it,” said Boudreau, whose team was scheduled to practice Sunday before that skate also got scrapped. “But when we do all the tests and they’re wearing the heart [monitors] and everything else, for six or seven games, we were always at the maximum energy usage. So, we brought it down and they’ve played with a little more energy.
“Whether it’s psychological or real, a lot of it is coming from our strength coach, which is great because he sees it all the time.”
Easing up on the workload in between games isn’t just for the body, though. A mental reprieve can be just as helpful.
“We had a lot of travel at the start of the year that can wear on you,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said, “as well a lot of late nights and weird sleeping patterns. Whenever you can get rest, I think it’s a good thing.”
With the All-Star break and bye week starting later this week, the Wild will soon have quite a bit of downtime on its hands. And although skating isn’t mandatory, Spurgeon said, players will receive an off-ice workout plan to stay active during that hiatus.
“No one wants to have seven, eight days completely doing nothing,” winger Mats Zuccarello said. “It’s in our nature just to do something, sweat, just feel like you’ve done something. So, I’m sure a couple days you take and you rest your body, and then you kind of get eager to get back so you start doing something. And it’s a big part of the season coming up, so you want to be rested [and] at the same time keep the body going.”
Backup Alex Stalock made a third straight start Monday after backstopping the Wild to its previous two wins, stopping 45 of 47 shots in that span and posting his second shutout of the season.
“You keep saying, ‘OK, we want to get Devan [Dubnyk] going,’ ” Boudreau said. “But when your other guy’s playing that way, you just hope that you don’t use him too long because he’s not used to playing tons after tons of games.”
With a five-goal cushion by the third period Saturday, Boudreau was able to get the fourth line involved and even gave the unit a look on the power play — which winger Ryan Hartman capitalized on to wrap up the 7-0 rout of the Stars.
Overall, the fourth line contributed two goals and combined for five points.
“To get seven and nobody scored two, that’s what you want,” Boudreau said of the balanced attack. “You want to put the fear in the team that you’re playing against that anybody can score on this team, and I think that’s coming to fruition.”
With his game-winning goal Saturday, Spurgeon became the franchise’s all-time leader in game-winners by a defenseman with 14 — surpassing Brent Burns, who had 13 from 2003 to 2011.
Captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Brad Hunt are getting over a flu bug and although both skated Monday morning and are feeling better, neither was ready to play against the Panthers, Boudreau said.