Four keys to the Wild's stretch run

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2014 - 8:37 AM

The Wild holds a five-point lead for the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference. But in a league that features 25 teams holding a playoff berth or within four points of one, that cushion can evaporate in an instant.

“That’s why we have to pick up right where we left off,” Wild forward Charlie Coyle said.

That’s also why coach Mike Yeo was all business during an up-tempo, very loud practice Tuesday. Yeo spent an hour barking orders and correcting mistakes, “trying to guard against any comfort creeping in.”

The Wild hasn’t played since Feb. 6 and is staring at back-to-back games Thursday and Friday in Edmonton and Vancouver.

“I don’t think we can wait until Thursday night to flip a switch, then all the sudden have the urgency that we need,” Yeo said. “We have to practice that way, we have to compete and battle in practice and make sure that we’re doing things the way that we need to do them.”

After three games in nine days, the Wild plays 20 games in the final 37 days. It will be a 6½-week sprint to the finish.

For the Wild to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season, here are the keys:

 

1. Darcy Kuemper must be the man in goal

Barring a trade by the March 5 deadline, the cage belongs to the 23-year-old rookie. Josh Harding’s return grows more unlikely by the day and Niklas Backstrom’s lingering abdominal stiffness continues to be such an issue, the veteran missed Tuesday’s practice.

Kuemper started 12 consecutive games before the Olympic break and is 8-2-2 in his past 13 starts.

While Chuck Fletcher might be forced into acquiring goaltending insurance, the Wild general manager said Tuesday he’s “very confident with Darcy. We’ve relied on a lot of young players this year. It’s sort of the makeup of our team. It’s going to be pretty hard to all of a sudden become a veteran team at the trade deadline.”

The Wild must continue to aid him defensively (2.42 goals allowed per game, fifth best in the West). Kuemper says he’s “definitely, definitely” capable of handling the pressure that will come with being the No. 1 down the stretch.

“It was a fun stretch before the Olympic break, but I can’t be satisfied with that,” Kuemper said. “We’ve got a lot of important games coming up here, an important playoff push, not only to get into the playoffs, but to continue on once we get there.”

 

2. The Wild must win on the road

Twelve of the Wild’s final 23 games are on the road, including a stretch of eight of 10 games from March 17-April 3. We know the Wild is confident at home, holding a 21-7-2 record at Xcel Energy Center. Only St. Louis, Anaheim and San Jose (22 wins each) have more home wins in the West.

But the Wild is 10-14-5 on the road, tied with Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix and Washington for the second-fewest road victories in the NHL. That’s three fewer road wins than any other Western Conference team in a playoff position.

Yeo said it’s imperative the Wild takes advantage of the home portion of the schedule, “but you know that we’re not going to be able to just run away with things and be able to cruise in. We’re going to have to finish the season strong and that means we’re going to have to play well on the road.”

  • related content

  • Wild notes: Backstrom misses practice

    Wednesday February 26, 2014

    Darcy Kuemper is expected to start Thursday in Edmonton.

  • Playoff chase: NHL conference standings

    Tuesday March 4, 2014

  • The Minnesota Wild's Jason Pominville (29) scores the game winner past Montreal goalie Carey Price (31) during third period action Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

  • Mikael Granlund should return confident after his Sochi play for Finland.

  • Darcy Kuemper.

  • Mikko Koivu

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: D. Holland 4
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 2
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 4 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Samardzija 8
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 5 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 1
Chicago 27 FINAL
NY Jets 19
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Dallas 4
Anaheim 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 5
Arizona 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Time left for great deals

Bid thru Sept. 29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close