Home arenas are supposed to be comfort zones. But when a team is struggling the way the Wild has, coming back to Minnesota for a three-game homestand — starting Tuesday against Dallas — had coach Mike Yeo feeling wary.
“One thing for sure, [there are] mixed feelings about coming back home,” Yeo said after Monday’s practice. “Right now, obviously, a little home cooking would be nice for us. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little nervous for tomorrow. Certainly I think our fan base is a little restless — more than a little restless right now. And they expect more from us. And they deserve more of us.
“Normally I feel it’s our responsibility to give them a product that gives them reason to cheer and reason to be excited. But I kind of hope it goes the other way around tomorrow. Because I know they could have a huge impact in the game.’’
So Yeo is basically asking the fans to help the Wild get off to a strong start against a Dallas team that has come back from two- and three-goal deficits win at Xcel Energy Center this season.
Interestingly, the Wild’s recent skid began after a tough 2-1 victory over the Stars in Dallas on Jan. 9. Since then, the Wild is 1-9-1.
“We feed off their energy,” Yeo said of the crowd. “Hopefully we give them plenty of reason to cheer.’’
Injuries could be a factor, especially on defense. Jonas Brodin is out because of a broken foot. Jared Spurgeon was injured in St. Louis on Saturday. Yeo wouldn’t say where Spurgeon had been hurt, but “the good news is it’s just a deep bruise,” Yeo said. “Bad bruise. Obviously there is some discomfort today, and he’s feeling pretty sore.’’
In case Spurgeon can’t play, the team recalled defenseman Mike Reilly from Iowa of the AHL on Monday and reassigned center Tyler Graovac to Iowa.
Captain Mikko Koivu, meanwhile, initially took the ice for practice but quickly left because of what Yeo called discomfort. Yeo said he didn’t expect Koivu to miss Tuesday’s game.
The Dallas game is the first of three in a row at home against quality opposition that includes Washington and Boston. Dallas has the third-best record in the Western Conference. Washington leads the Eastern Conference and Boston is tied for fourth.
The Wild, meanwhile, is coming off a 4-1 loss to St. Louis, one that — despite the final margin — had the team thinking progress had been made. Thomas Vanek (three goals and six assists in his past 22 games) and Jason Zucker (no goals in his past 11) were benched for the game to shake up the team, which ended up outshooting the Blues 39-24.
“We like to think so, we hope so,” Zach Parise said about the feeling of progress. “There was definitely some good in the last game. But we’re still having a hard time getting everything going at the same time. But the effort was there.’’
Said Yeo: “There was a different feel to that game. There was a different feel in the dressing room, in the locker room, on the bench. Obviously the result wasn’t what we were hoping for. But I know we’re not going to snap our fingers and all of a sudden win 5-1 against a team like that. It was a necessary step. Now we have to take another one.’’
And, at home, a quick start could be crucial. Wild fans have grown impatient.
“Every time you play at home, you want the home crowd behind you,” Charlie Coyle said. “So our mind-set is to get back to the way we can play, the team game. That will get the crowd behind us.’’