Coach Mike Yeo asks Wild to stop abandoning 'our game'

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2013 - 6:34 AM

Instead of staying disciplined to Yeo's system, the Wild got lured into what the coach felt was a "bit of a track meet" with the Flames.

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Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert, right, collided with Calgary's Steve Begin during the third period of Saturday night's game against the Flames.

Photo: Jeff McIntosh, AP

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CALGARY, ALBERTA — During a 4-1-1 stretch that included consecutive Wild wins at home against Detroit and at Edmonton, Mike Yeo started to see more and more examples of the Wild's game coming.

Take the second and third periods in Edmonton when the Wild was tight defensively, generated scoring chances and spent much of the final 40 minutes in the offensive zone.

It looked like the Wild picked up right where it left off in the first 14 minutes of the first period in Calgary on Saturday. All four lines were buzzing, pinning the Flames in the defensive zone, generating a sustained attack.

But then, one shotless power play later, the entire game turned south.

Instead of staying disciplined to Yeo's system, the Wild got lured into what the coach felt was a "bit of a track meet" with the Flames. Slowly, that track meet turned into long stretches in the Wild end and long spurts without shots.

"We've been playing pretty good here lately," Yeo said after Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Flames. "The biggest thing for us, we're talking about how we're still building our game and we're still learning. You learn from doing the right thing and seeing the result [as at Edmonton] and you learn from doing the wrong thing like we just did and seeing the result.

"It's a matter of getting back to our game. We have to respond the right way with a much better attitude and much better preparation for how we're going to play the game."

Like most coaches, Yeo wants to avoid getting into uncontrollable "track meets." He wants his players to stick to the system. He wants pucks behind the defense and suffocating forechecks to wear down opposing teams.

"We don't want to make it a 50-50 game," Yeo said.

He said it's remembering "it doesn't matter who we play, it doesn't matter what the score is, there is a way we're supposed to play the game. I don't want to say it takes time to build that. We've definitely felt like it's been coming. But [Saturday] was not another step forward, that's for sure."

The Wild, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, has scored one goal in eight of 17 games this season. On Saturday, it scored a first-period goal for the first time in nine games.

But Yeo felt "all the aspects of our game -- you want to talk about one-on-one battles, loose pucks, the way we defend, the detail in our game, just the overall mindset of how we execute -- we were not there."

Realignment update

The Wild is getting closer to being realigned out of the Northwest Division. The team has been told it will be in a new seven-team "conference" with more geographical and sensible rivals, sources say.

"It remains a work in progress," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. "We hope to have something for the Board [of Governors] to review and consider for approval in the next week or two."

CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that the new realignment plan has the Wild in a conference with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. Daly wouldn't confirm Friedman's report. Under the NHL's original plan last year, Detroit and Columbus were supposed to be in the conference and Colorado in with the California teams, Phoenix, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Now, according to Friedman, Detroit would move into a conference with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto, while Columbus would join Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, the Rangers, Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

Wild owner Craig Leipold has urged the NHL to realign the Wild since purchasing the franchise in 2008.

The reasons? 1) Better geographical rivalries; 2) shorter flights; 3) fiscally more desirable; 4) fewer occasions through customs; 5) earlier start times, making road games more practical for fans to watch on TV.

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