Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild happy to be home, looking to rebound Tuesday

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: May 6, 2014 - 8:38 AM

Update: I'll be hosting a live chat today at 3 p.m. at www.startribune.com/wild. Please join in.

Ginormous Game 3 to say the least if you’re the Wild.

The Wild will be looking for some Xcel Energy Center electricity Tuesday night when the Wild returns home with another 2-0 series deficit, this time to the Chicago Blackhawks. Last round, the Wild put forth two outstanding efforts to even the series going back to Denver.

Of course, it eventually won that series to advance to the second round.

Monday, the Wild had the day off after coach Mike Yeo felt like the team was running on fumes for parts of Game 2 in Chicago. Remember, the Wild played last Wednesday in Denver, won in overtime, flew to Chicago and arrived about 5 a.m. Thursday. It played Game 1 vs. the Hawks on Friday, then had to play an afternoon game Sunday.

So it makes sense, but the Wild better find the energy quick and the hope is the team refueled today.

A few guys did skate today, but mostly the extras and regulars Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley and Clayton Stoner were around the rink getting treatment, working out, working on sticks, etc. The coaches were all in the back trying to make the necessary tactical adjustments.

Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to get the Game 3 start. John Curry and Josh Harding were two of the guys who did skate today.

For Chicago, Andrew Shaw did not make the trip for Game 3. The Hawks will fly back to Chicago after the game and return for Game 4 Friday (8:30 p.m. game, by the way), so coach Joel Quenneville said Shaw is a possibility for the second part of the Hawks’ trip.

Because I’m running on fumes and haven’t been home since last Tuesday, here’s some cut and paste quotes. I’ll also be on KFAN at 5:15 p.m., on KFAN at 9:55 a.m. Tuesday and on Fox Sports North’s pregame show around 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.

YEO:

Any lineup changes? “I’ll update more on our lineup tomorrow. Obviously, we’ll look at whatever we have to do going forward. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing things, but we’re not finalized with anything yet.”

Adjustments? “I feel last game, it looked like maybe a lack of energy caused some things tactically where we weren’t sharp enough. Puck support, in particular for me, and just sort of the spacing between our players, whether it’s in our checking game or whether it’s when we have the puck. Again, a little more jump, a little more in our step and the difference between three feet is big.”

How much is it mental that Chicago has beaten the Wild in six of seven playoff games? “Maybe. That’s part of it and we have to overcome that for sure. I think we played these guys better in the regular season. Is aid after last night that I felt like these last two games were different from last year. I spent a lot of time looking at and going over my notes from last year and looking at stats, and I think that, statistically, it shows that it’s been different. I don’t feel like we’ve played our two best games by any means, but I look at puck possession this year compared to last year and I see a big difference. Scoring chance wise, same thing. Where I felt we were outplayed last year, I feel like these have been pretty even games. Like I said, a play or two here or there and we could easily be coming home with a split and feeling much better about ourselves. But that said, it’s still a great team. Can’t forget about the fact that they built a lot of momentum in their last series playing against a very, very good St. Louis team, winning four straight against them. I think they’ve come into our series with a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence and we have to try and stop that.”

On one power play last game: “We’ve got to draw more power plays for sure. Usually you do that when you’re moving your feet, when you’re playing with speed. It can be off the rush, but it can also be in the offensive zone where we’re moving our feet, we’re forcing somebody to hook, we’re forcing somebody to hold. Again, I don’t think that we had enough of that. I don’t think we saw a lot of guys carrying pucks last night, skating, taking open ice. For whatever reason, we seemed to have our feet planted. Hopefully the energy part of it – that’s all it is. Hopefully the confidence of coming back home and just sort of the mentality of let’s go make the play, that’ll be what we’re looking for.”

How good is Chicago defensively? “I will never hide from that fact. I’ll give those guys a ton of credit. You look at what they’ve done the last four years. Night in and night out, this is a team that can hurt you in the way they play offensively, they can hurt you in how they can capitalize on their opportunities, but this is a team that’s not easy to play against. This is a team that checks very well. It’s a team that has good depth. They can put out different guys against different lines and different pairings against different lines, and they’re very consistent in their checking game. Especially I think a large part of that is the way they skate. They play a fast game in how they play without the puck, in the same way that they play a fast game with the puck. So you’ve got to be ready to make quick plays, you’ve got to be ready to make fast decisions.

On all his slumping players: “I think the more pressure starts to build on a player, the more they start to think about that stuff, they start to get themselves in a bit of a deeper hole. We’ve talked about it almost like quicksand a little bit, the more you struggle, the deeper you get. That’s why it’s really important to make sure that you’re focused on the game, make sure that you’re focused on your play. What are the things that you’re doing when you’re successful? What are the things that you are doing to create scoring chance, to give yourself the best chance to capitalize on an opportunity like that? And I think that’s what’s critical, not only for individuals as far as wanting to score a goal, but for our team as far as wanting to win a game too. We have to stay focused on the little things. We have to stay focused on our process and trust that result will be there at the end for you.”

Being 3-0 at home: “I think we’ve played these guys well in our building. I think we’ve played well in our building all year. I think that our fans have something to do with it. It’s going to be really loud and we feed off that, and certainly it’s more of a challenge for the opposition. I think that they do have more experience dealing with that. I do think that this is a very good team and a very good road team, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be confident. It’s going to be a hard game. We know that. We recognize that. Like I said, this is a great opponent. They’ve had the success that they’ve had for a reason, and they’ve had it against different teams. So, our focus has to be on ourselves. Our focus has to be on tomorrow, getting excited for that game and not looking past anything from that.”

On Moulson’s game slipping besides the offense:  “For me, hopefully, that’s the challenge for all players. That’s the challenge for the team. When things haven’t gone well, and this is something hopefully we can draw upon from last series, is we had times where things didn’t go our way and things we’re difficult, but the ability to come back to the rink and just put everything in the garbage and just get reset and refocused on the next game, that’s the only challenge. That’s the only thing that matters. To me, whether you’ve had success or whether you haven’t had success, what’s in the past has to be in the past, and the only thing that I want is for guys to be excited to play that game tomorrow.”

CHARLIE COYLE

0-2 deficit: We’ve been here before. Right now we just have to focus on the next one. That’s all we have to do. We said that last series too and we came out and got a win here and everything went well the next game. We’ve got to come out and prove that and play well.

Why the low-energy level: I don’t know. You get so high up after that Game 7 win and you feel great. You go to Chicago and I don’t know if we just kind of went through the motions or why after that such a high. You lose that game and all of a sudden it feels like it’s the end of the world again. We’ve got to get back to staying on that even-keel and not getting too high or too low. As of right now, we’ve got to put those games behind us.

On the lack of feistiness: We definitely haven’t shown what we’re capable of. We haven’t been on our game. We haven’t had that grittiness that we brought last series. I think being at home right now is good for us and usually brings out the best in us, being here and playing here.

Ttough team to be feisty against with no Shaw, Bollig: I think the last two games we’ve kind of just got caught playing their way. We need to get back to playing our game and doing what we do best. When we play our game and we’re on, we play good. Sometimes during the game some things don’t go your way, you kind of change up what you’re doing right. I think we did that the last two games.

On Corey Crawford: Yeah, he’s playing well. He’s a good goalie. We just have to find ways to get more pucks at the net. Two shots in the first. We can’t wait until the second and third to start firing pucks and take away his eyes and get traffic. We’ve got to start from the beginning so it’s a full 60. We’ve got to use every minute to our advantage. We have to fire pucks at him because he’s a good goalie.

On rebounding: There’s nothing to save it for now. It’s end of the year, playoff time. We need to get our energy up. We know we still have it. We’ve just got to go out and prove it and show it. We have to the team to do it. We’ve done it before. We did it last series when things weren’t going our way and we changed things around.

Mental: Yeah, that can wear on you, I think. You know you’re going against a good team. You can go back to last year and say, ‘Oh, these guys beat us’ but it’s a new year. We’ve got put that behind us. I think everyone is comfortable with our group compared to last year. We like where we’re at. We like our team, we like our guys we have in this locker room. We should go out and prove our game and bring it to them. That’s all we’ve got to do.

CLAYTON STONER

“I think this home crowd is going to help us. We've always played good at home, for the most part, throughout the season, and I think we can use that to our advantage and try to take the momentum back.”

Different to coming back against Chicago compared to Colorado?

“I don't see a lot of difference. If we stay with our structure and pick our intensity up, make some better plays and finish our scoring chances, I feel like we can take the series over. There's a lot of belief in this room after coming back against Colorado and they're a good team, too. They finished No. 1 in the division, so they're a good team.

Day off to energize or bigger problems?

“Definitely the day off's gonna help. We did look a little bit tired in the game and I think a lot of it is just re-charging the batteries a little bit. But, at the same time, it's just re-setting the mind and just trying to take this one game at a time, kind of like we did last series, use the home crowd to our advantage and play the way we can.”

Mental having lost six of seven in playoffs.

“I don't feel that there's any mental block with this team. The last two games, I felt we could win both games and we're not that far off. It's not like they're killing us out there. They're capitalizing on their chances and we're not. I think the belief in the room is very strong. As much as we respect them, I don't think that we think they're a better team.”

Chicago's shot blockers:

“They do a real good job of fronting and blocking shots. Their 'D' stand in front of the net and they're not afraid to stop as many pucks as the goalie does, it feels like. I think we're gonna have to get more traffic to the net and put a little more onus on the defensemen to get that puck through and get a rebound there for the forwards to bang in.”

Feel different from last year?

“It's a different group. A different feel going into playoffs. A different feel in the first round. There's a lot of belief in here. I think we're a good team, I know we're a good team, and we're going up against a good team, but at the same time, we believe that we can make a run at the Cup. We have a lot of depth this year we didn't have last year. We have more experience in the lineup. Just a whole different group and a different feel all season.”

DANY HEATLEY

“you don’t want to be down 0-2 again. But we’re excited to come back home. We play well in this building. Exciting to get going.”

“every series, every team as you go through this playoff year it’s going to get tougher. Chicago’s a great team, defending champions. But I think in both those games we felt we were in both of them. We could have had a chance to win both of them. Having said that there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to do better and we know that.”

“I think we feel comfortable here. We’re excited. This is a real loud building gin the playoffs. I know the fans, the town’s excited to watch tomorrow. And we’ve played well here all year. It’s important to be good in your rink and we have and we’ve got to continue to do that this playoffs.”

Lost 6 of 7 vs. them: “first of all I think this year and last year are completely different. I think we have a different group in here. You guys can run whatever numbers you want but I think we believe we can beat this team and it starts tomorrow.”

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