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Continued: At season’s midpoint, Wild is justifying those lofty hopes

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 12, 2013 - 10:48 AM

This second half has the makings for more emotional roller coasters. In an ultra-tight Western Conference where one loss can knock you outside the top eight, the Wild must continue to stick with Yeo’s system. It’s proven effective when everybody’s on the same page and exuding the same work ethic.

“You see the way guys are competing,” Yeo said.

The second half begins Tuesday night when the Wild, 9-2-1 at home, is host to the mighty Anaheim Ducks, who have lost once in regulation in the past 14 games and are 15-2-2 since Feb. 1 (including two victories over Minnesota in Orange County).

There have been several reasons for the Wild’s 14-game turnaround, too, since Feb. 9.

Yeo says it starts with the character throughout the lineup and leadership, especially captain Mikko Koivu, Parise and Suter.

Veteran Matt Cullen has been outstanding for a month, and right winger Devin Setoguchi has scored, been physical and put forth solid efforts after a slow start. Along with the speedy Zucker, who has four clutch goals in four wins, the second line hounds the puck and routinely creates chances.

Mike Rupp also has made a big impact since being traded to the Wild on Feb. 4. He plays his role to perfection — keeping it simple, getting pucks deep and forechecking. He has helped create some big momentum shifts with linemates Zenon Konopka (when he plays) and Torrey Mitchell.

Brodin has been nothing short of tremendous when one considers he’s 19. The poise has in the defensive zone is something most veterans don’t have.

But the biggest factor may be Brodin’s defense partner, Suter, who has recovered from a slow start with a string of big games. He constantly gets the puck out of trouble, out of the defensive zone and up the ice. His vision and innate passing ability has helped a Wild offense (26th in the NHL) that is gradually getting better.

Since Feb. 9, Suter has 14 points. He is riding a seven-game point streak, a franchise-record for a defenseman. Logging an NHL-high 27 minutes, 29 seconds a game, Suter has 17 assists (tied for second among NHL defensemen) and 18 points (tied for fourth). To put that in perspective, Jared Spurgeon led the Wild’s defensemen in those categories last season with 20 and 23, respectively — and that was in 46 more games.

Yeo says the Wild’s a team “on the up.”

Parise agrees.

“There’s a better attitude in here,” Parise said. “We’re playing with a little more swagger. It’s about maintaining it now.”
 

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