Wild hopes end of losing streak is a springboard to better play

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2014 - 1:47 PM

The winger and team see bounces finally go their way.

Kyle Brodziak envisioned breaking his career-long 30-game goal drought in a different way.

Maybe the checking center would go “top shelf where momma hides the cookies” or deke the goalie out of his skates … or at the very minimum have a teammate’s shot deflect in off his shin pad or something.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard the announcer say, ‘Goal awarded to …’ not ‘Goal scored by …’ ” Brodziak said Friday — one day after being credited with his first goal since Oct. 26 after being hauled down with Buffalo’s net empty for an extra attacker. “It’s kind of embarrassing, actually.

“I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Hopefully you get a lucky break like that, maybe your fortunes will turn around.”

The same could be said about the Wild’s 4-1 victory over the Sabres, too. The Wild is hoping its first victory since Dec. 17 will help turn the team’s fortunes, and the first indicator to see if it will comes Saturday night when reigning Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin invades Xcel Energy Center with the Washington Capitals.

Ovechkin, the three-time NHL MVP, is the league’s only 30-goal scorer thus far (31). He also leads in power-play goals (12) and shots (218). It will take a team effort to shut down the superstar and his playmaking sidekick, Nicklas Backstrom.

The two are lethal on the NHL’s second-most prolific power play.

“The first time I played against Ovechkin, I remember saying to myself, ‘He’s the best player I’ve ever played against,’ ” defenseman Nate Prosser said. “He’ll come down on a 1-on-3 and he’s not dumping it. The guy shoots everything. He’s not about getting to the red line and chipping it in. However he can get it to the net, he’s getting it there.”

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who made 19 saves Thursday in his first victory since Nov. 23, will get the start again. Coach Mike Yeo said Josh Harding still is not feeling well. Yeo offered no other details, only to say he had not been told this is anything beyond an illness for Harding, who missed four games recently to have his treatment for multiple sclerosis altered.

Banged-up defenseman Jared Spurgeon missed his second practice in a row, but he played quite well Thursday. One concern is third-line right wing Justin Fontaine, who left practice Friday after being popped during a battle drill. He was in discomfort, looked dazed and never returned. Yeo offered no update, only to say he expected him to play against Washington.

If he can’t, the Wild will either have to call up a forward or play Mike Rupp. The Wild lost center Zenon Konopka when the Sabres, who had first crack because they’re ranked 30th in the NHL, claimed the bruiser off waivers Friday.

“My time here was amazing, but this is the nature of the beast and I’ll never forget my time here,” Konopka said.

All four lines contributed against the Sabres and “that’s what we’re going to need,” forward Torrey Mitchell said. “We need consistent play from every line, from every D pairing, and some timely saves. If we do that, we’ll come out on the winning end a lot.”

Three Wild goals Thursday — by Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker — all came off the rush. It was quite the contrast to the recent 6-12-1 slide when the Wild had less puck possession and had to rely again on dumping and chasing.

“It happened because we defended better and created turnovers,” Yeo said. “If you don’t do those things, you can try to make plays off the rush all you want, but the other team’s going to be in good position. You have to create situations where they’re out of posture.”

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