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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Posts about Wild game coverage

After the Wild's latest victory, a flashback to Zach Parise's Jan. 26 words

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: March 28, 2015 - 12:02 AM

Jan. 26 seems so long ago.

I remember walking around this tiny, smelly locker room in Leduc, Alberta, and then writing this article.

“We’ve got to win. There’s no other way to put it,” Zach Parise said before the Wild swept a trip to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. “There’s not a lot of room for error and it’s going to be hard. We know that. It’s going to be very hard. But we’re not going to quit.

“We’ve got to keep improving and get our game going in the right direction. We can’t put ourselves in an, ‘Every game’s a win or season’s over,’ type scenario. You stress yourself out and all of a sudden mentally you’re making the game a lot harder.

“We know what the standings look like. That’s no secret. But we can’t make up all those points this week. We’ve got to start small.”

The Wild was in 12th place then. It was seven points behind Calgary, 14 points behind Winnipeg, 16 points behind Chicago.

Prior to tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings and after Friday’s 4-2 win over the Flames, the Wild is 23-5-1 since Parise said those words.

The Wild is six up on 9th-place Calgary, three points up on Winnipeg and one point behind Chicago for third in the Central Division. If the Wild beats the Kings tonight, the Wild will overtake Chicago (although the Hawks would have two games in hand).

That would be quite the accomplishment even though remember in the new playoff format, even though the Wild has more points than Vancouver, L.A. and Winnipeg, finishing third in the Central just means you play visitor to the second-place team in the Central. That currently is St. Louis.

So not much would change, and in fact, it could turn out to be a “be careful what you wish for” scenario.

But who would want to play the Wild right now? Minnesota’s a team that hasn’t lost consecutive games in more than two months or even lost by more than a goal in more than two months. Minnesota’s got a league-best +44 goal differential (100-56) under Devan Dubnyk (23 saves tonight).

Tonight, the Wild dominated from start to finish and finally broke through in the third period with three goals by Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu and Parise. Coach Mike Yeo called all his veterans “gamers” tonight, and it’s hard to argue.

Koivu was sensational from the opening puck drop. Parise had seven shots and became the fourth Wild 30-goal scorer in history. Vanek continued his recent surge with his 20th goal and seventh in the past 10 games since missing that game in Raleigh sick and Ryan Suter played another strong game.

Jonas Brodin may not be a vet, but he was plus-3 and is now tied for third among NHL defensemen with a plus-22. Heck, I even jinxed Mikael Granlund in a good way with this morning’s blog. He won 10 of 14 faceoffs. Matt Dumba scored a power-play goal and now has eight goals, which ranks third among NHL rookie defensemen.

The big story of the game was Justin Fontaine being leveled 1:51 into the third period by Joe Colborne. In a 1-1 game, the Wild felt Colborne should have been assessed an illegal check to the head or interference penalty.

Fontaine looked dazed and was slow to get up. Yeo stood on the bench and screamed at referee Francois St. Laurent, then got into an umpire-manager-like shouting match.

Fontaine returned to the bench and in his first shift back 1:45 after the hit set up Vanek for the go-ahead goal.

“That was definitely a rallying point, especially for Fonzie,” Yeo said. “Great response by him. That’s the way you respond. Are we the most physical team? Not in the sense of running guys through the boards or dropping the gloves, but that’s a tough hockey player to come back from a hit like that the next shift and respond that way. That’s the kind of toughness that we’re asking for.”

Just 3:23 later, Chris Stewart assisted on Koivu’s eventual winner. From there, the rout was on against a previously unbeatable Karri Ramo.

For the second straight home game, the Wild chased an opposing goalie (Brian Elliott last Saturday).

It’s amazing because Ramo was so good early coupled with the fact the Wild frustratingly couldn’t finish.

Charlie Coyle had one side of the net open on a potential wraparound but instead opted to attempt a pass that slid through the crease. Later, Coyle set himself up for a great chance at the goalmouth, but instead of pulling the trigger on a backhand, he made one move too many.

Parise was gloved down 1-on-1 with Ramo, Nino Niederreiter and Jordan Schroeder each couldn’t bury pucks off fancy moves on drives, Stewart was robbed point-blank with the tip of a fallen Ramo’s glove, Ramo seemed to make a miracle save on an Erik Haula tip, there were what felt like countless other scrambles for loose pucks in the slot and Vanek was caught by defenseman Kris Russell on a breakaway.

But the Wild kept with it and finally broke through.

“Around the paint, the goalie spinning out of position, things are just hitting him and they’re collapsing and it’s just not going in,” Fontaine said. “But give everyone credit. We said if we stuck to our game, they were going to go in. That’s what happened in the third. It’s a big win for us.”

Flames coach Bob Hartley said, “They were dominant tonight. Right from first drop of the puck, they dominated us on the faceoff dot. They controlled the entire game. It was quite a performance from the wild

“They have unbelievable speed on their four lines. The balance of that team, if they stay healthy, they’re a top team.”

Heck, most impressive about the Wild’s entire second half is it has been doing this with five, six, sometimes seven guys out a night. Yet, it keeps on winning.

Quite the story, but Yeo said, “We’re not there yet. It’s great that we’re closer to the teams above us. We’ve got to have the same approach. We can’t start to get comfortable.”

Big game Saturday against the defending champs. Wild has four off-days in a row after tonight and before the Rangers come Thursday, so two more points would do the Wild some good.

That’s it for me. Talk to you after Saturday morning’s availability (I should just sleep here). Dubnyk will obviously start. The only question is whether Ryan Carter gets in probably for Sean Bergenheim (Jordan Schroeder had another great game tonight).

Check out the game story and notebook, which is Justin Fontaine heavy after the Bulldogs' big win over the Gophers and his big response to the Colborne hit.

Overwhelmed early, Wild discovers its game for come-from-behind 10th straight road victory

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: March 24, 2015 - 11:37 PM

I wrote a ton about Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise in the game story, so I’ll try to touch on some other stuff from tonight’s come-from-behind 2-1 shootout win over the Islanders. 

On an aside, funny story, but I met a person the other day that said, “I love your blogs.” I laughed and said, “How about the articles?” He goes, “What articles?” Yes, I write those, too. That's what I'm doing when I disappear on Twitter every third period.

I just thought that was funny, and on a night like tonight where I spent the majority of the gamer talking about Dubnyk, I don’t want you to think I’m completely out to lunch if I don’t touch on him as much in here. Start reading the articles, too, if you don’t (ha). I try to make this more of a supplement.

Obviously, Dubnyk continues to be the Wild’s MVP and lifted the Wild to yet another gigantic win tonight. The Kings just keep winning, so the Wild stayed five points up on a playoff spot with eight games left. Winnipeg blew a 2-0 lead in Vancouver and lost 5-2.

That means the Wild is three up on the first wildcard spot.

I knew the Wild had a travel delay out of Toronto last night, but I didn’t realize until after the game that the Wild got to its hotel at 3 a.m. I think the Wild kept that to itself in order to make sure that the Wild’s potential fatigue wasn’t part of Jack Capuano’s gameplan. Didn’t matter. The Islanders always come out hard and home and they had the Wild firmly planted on its heels in a first period in which the Wild was outshot 16-5 and out-attempted 32-9.

“First period, we were turning pucks over like crazy, turning pucks over in front of their defensemen, making hope plays and forcing plays and allowing them to counter back with their speed,” Yeo said. “You can’t play with good structure when you’re turning pucks over like that.”

But Dubnyk, the rock star, kept the Wild in a scoreless game.

“They’re big on their starts and they try to overwhelm you and sometimes on the road like that, it’s important to just survive, just get through that first wave and gather ourselves,” Dubnyk said after his 37-save effort. “Exactly what we did.”

The Wild started to play much better in the second, started to get some chances on Jaroslav Halak, who didn’t have to exert himself early, started to come with speed. Halak made a nice save on a deflected Thomas Vanek (his eight-game point streak ended) shot and a great save on Jason Pominville off a Parise setup.

But with 23.7 seconds left in the second, the moment a penalty on Mikael Granlund expired, John Tavares jammed in the game’s first goal.

But Yeo altered his lines in the third to create some offense and the Wild responded by buzzing shift after shift for eight or nine minutes. Parise and Pominville played with Mikko Koivu, Granlund played with Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart and Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle played with Jordan Schroeder (more on him in a sec).

Finally, Pominville found Parise in front, Halak stopped Parise’s first shot and Parise scored his 29th goal on his rebound. Parise scored 29 last season, so he’s a goal from his personal-best with the Wild. He was great again. Goal, shootout winner, four shots, four hits, four blocked shots (huge one in last minute).

The Wild got to overtime and Dubnyk was great again, especially on a robbery of Johnny Boychuk.

“I can’t even count the times that guy’s scored on me in the American League and even when he was in Boston, so I was lucky I could at least return the favor a couple times,” Dubnyk said. “It probably would take about 10 times before I could get him back on all the goals he scored on me.”

In the shootout, Dubnyk wasn’t beaten on three attempts and Parise’s 39th career shootout goal was the difference.

“I’ve seen that before. Just never happened to me,” Parise said of his post and in goal.

10th straight road win to extend franchise-record and 14-1-2 on the road under Dubnyk. He is now 14-1-1 on the road in 17 starts with a 1.44 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.

He is now 3-0-1 with a 1.20 GAA and a .967 SV% in the second of back-to-backs since being pulled Jan. 20 at Detroit in his first try with the Wild in such a situation.

YES, HE WILL START BOTH RARE BACK-TO-BACK GAMES THIS WEEKEND AT HOME AGAINST CALGARY AND L.A., AND WE DON’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK YEO!

“He deserves this story right now and deserves to be talked about. It’s a guy you want to cheer for,” Yeo said of Dubnyk.

The Wild now has eight wins when trailing after two periods. That’s fourth-most in the NHL.

“We shouldn’t get in the habit of it,” Ryan Suter, who logged 32:04 of ice time, said. “The past two weeks, we’ve been coming out slow and finding ways to win at the end, which is a good thing to have. But we don’t want to make a habit of it.”

Dubnyk said, “We’ve won games where we’ve absolutely dominated, we’ve won games like this. But we always find a way to gather ourselves and get our game going and get the important goals. We just find ways to do it in every way imaginable. Road wins are huge in the playoffs.”

The Wild has won once on the road in the past two playoffs, so this is big the confidence the Wild has on the road. And if the Wild makes the playoffs, it’ll start on the road barring a mathematical miracle.

Finally, Schroeder. Scratched in eight straight because of a number’s game. He played his first game since March 6 tonight because of Kyle Brodziak’s minor upper-body injury.

Schroeder’s speed was a threat all night, and after starting on the fourth line with Erik Haula and Sean Bergenheim, he was elevated to the third line, played on the Wild’s one penalty kill and played in overtime.

“He brought a lot of energy, he brought a lot of speed,” Yeo said. “I do think that part of our [problematic] start is the game was happening fast for us and he was a guy that was thinking the game and playing the game at the speed it was going out there.”

That’s pretty impressive for a guy who hadn’t played in 2 ½ weeks.

“Every time he was on the ice, he was bringing some momentum to us, he was having some good shifts and he earned  more opportunity through the game,” Yeo said.

Even though I liked Bergenheim’s game much better the past two games, I’d have to think now if Brodziak can play this weekend, Schroeder would stay in and Bergenheim would come out. But we will see.

The Wild is off Wednesday. I’ll write a follow and I’m actually staying in New York for the day and will be back Thursday. Rachel Blount has Thursday’s practice and I will be doing another podcast with Jim Souhan Thursday afternoon at the Liffey in St. Paul. You can also listen at souhanunfiltered.com.

It wasn't pretty, but the NHL's hottest team for nine weeks grind out ninth straight road win

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: March 23, 2015 - 11:52 PM

This was pretty much what I expected tonight in Toronto, a grind-out-two-points and get-out-of-dodge victory.

Anybody who thought the Wild would just roll into Toronto and blow out the lowly Leafs hasn’t watched a lot of Wild games. Even through the Wild’s 13-1-2 road record under Devan Dubnyk and now franchise-record nine consecutive road wins, the Wild grinds out victories.

The scores of the 13 road wins under Dubnyk: 7-0 (OK, discount that one because it was in Buffalo), 2-1, 1-0, 4-2, 3-2, 4-0 (at Edmonton), 4-2, 3-1, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-2 and now 2-1 tonight.

This game was a scary one because the Wild was facing a bunch of underachieving veterans who have just been getting annihilated in town and a bunch of no-names trying to make a name for themselves. Ryan Suter said the first period was a feeling out process because you’re just trying to get used to how the Leafs would play and how these kids he never heard of would play.

What also made this game scary is the Leafs had zilch to play for. So after a string of tight-checking, defensive-minded, hard-fought contests against the playoff contenders, the Wild suddenly was playing a loose team that wanted to play run and gun hockey.

“We couldn’t generate our o-zone because our D had to make sure to stay on the blue line because they were sending one, two, three guys,” said Thomas Vanek. “It’s tough to play, especially the way we like to play, to cycle the puck and get deep in the o-zone. We couldn’t establish that o-zone time. But at the end of the day, got two points, so we can’t be too sad about that.”

Coach Mike Yeo said, “They were spreading us out. I don’t think we were necessarily playing as tight in our structure and with as much detail as we normally do, which allowed for some of those situations to build some speed. One area we definitely have to be better is with the puck. We didn’t manage the puck very well. We weren’t strong enough on it.”

Showing off its depth yet again, the Wild got two goals from the third line, one from Charlie Coyle off a Vanek rebound, the other from Vanek himself for, finally, a big 2-0 lead off a Suter drop pass 9:08 into the third. Six goals, four assists now on an eight-game point streak for Vanek.

Devan Dubnyk, who was so good, had his seventh shutout bid of the season ruined by the pride of Minnetonka High, Jake Gardiner, with 6:24 left, but Dubnyk made 17 of his 35 saves in the third period and lifted the Wild to a big W heading into Tuesday’s game against the Islanders.

All playoff contenders the Wild is battling with – Calgary, Winnipeg, Los Angeles – won, so unless Dubnyk says he can’t go, one would assume Dubnyk will start his 33rd consecutive game Tuesday. That would be the most in the NHL since Antti Niemi started 34 in a row in 2010-11.

The Wild’s PK went 4 for 4 tonight and is now 33 for 34 the past 14 road games.

2 of the PK’s came with Erik Haula in the box and Kyle Brodziak in the locker room for impressively standing up for Haula and Jared Spurgeon by confronting big, tough Dion Phaneuf, who once annihilated the Wild’s Stephane Veilleux in a memorable fight in Calgary (a game the Wild coughed up a 3-0 lead after the fight if I remember correctly; Jacques Lemaire was ticked), and fighting the Leafs captain.

On a PK, Phaneuf had checked Haula hard and then slashed Spurgeon, which is what ticked off Brodziak. The Wild gave bigtime props to Brodziak for the scrap.

“We have different guys step in for teammates at different times, but nobody’s done it more than [Brodziak] this year,” Yeo said. “And that says an awful lot to your teammates when you do something like that. Not that we want to play that game, but at the same time, there comes a time where if things are going the wrong way, you have to let the team know we have that pack of wolves mentality.”

But on an 18-second 5-on-3, Mikko Koivu won a massive draw to kill off the 2-man advantage and then the Wild killed off the rest of the power play in the waning seconds of the second to preserve a 1-0 lead.

The Wild lost 35 of 61 faceoffs, but Koivu won 15 of 26. Coyle won 1 of 10, but that one was the faceoff that led to his 11th goal and eighth point in 10 games. Tired of getting roasted by Trevor Smith, Coyle said he tried a new way to beat him by not even going for the puck and driving forward through him. Luckily, Justin Fontaine and Vanek also went with him, something he said he didn’t tell them to do. Coyle scored off Vanek’s rebound.

Humorously, I thought it was a set play. When I asked Coyle if it was, Koivu chimed in, “Keep it quiet,” to his teammate with a big, mischievous grin.

Coyle finally said when Koivu walked away and stopped being the peanut gallery, “Just happened like that, Van shot the puck and rebound. I didn’t tell Vanek to jump like that or Fonzie to go. And it worked out. I was just trying a new way to beat him.

“I don’t think we were playing our game, kind of going back and forth with them, and not getting pucks deep and leaving pucks up for grabs. They’re a good transition team. But we won.”

That’s it for me. Unbelievably early flight to JFK in the morning, so I have a wakeup call in three hours. As an old Islanders fan, my last emotional trip to Nassau Coliseum tomorrow (well, unless the Wild faces the Isles in the Stanley Cup Finals)!

I’ll be on Fox Sports North pregame and first intermission. I’ll blog whenever we have lineup information. Not sure the Wild will skate in the morning.

Wild, as usual, bounces back with win over St. Louis to gain 5-point playoff cushion

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: March 21, 2015 - 6:46 PM

The Wild continues to respond impressively to losses.

Besides the fact it hasn’t lost by more than a goal since Jan. 19, the Wild hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 19-20 or consecutive games in regulation since Jan. 11 and 13. That was the pre-Devan Dubnyk, who today made 26 saves in a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the Wild looked nervous at the start. Wild coach Mike Yeo said the Wild looked sleepy at the start, but Dubnyk helped the Wild settle in by making a huge save early 1-on-1 with offensive stud Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored a goal and assist on eight shots.

Hitch’s former player, Chris Stewart, got the Wild going. With the Blues playing a tad too much in the Wild end, Stewart made something out of nothing by poking Jaden Schwartz’s pass from behind the net up top to Alex Pietrangelo out of the zone and into open space.

Stewart, a giant man, then found a burst of speed I remember him having in past years with Colorado but hadn’t seen yet with Minnesota. He turned on the jets, created separation and made a shrewd move to open up Brian Elliott’s five-hole for a 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later, Justin Fontaine made a neat play to hold the blue, wristed a shot on net and the puck tipped Zbynek Michalek’s stick, then hit Thomas Vanek’s arm, popped in the air and in.

That was one of the “goofy deflections,” as Hitchcock called them, that did in the Blues. In the second, Zach Parise and Jonas Brodin scored 26 seconds apart to end Elliott’s night.

Tarasenko tightened the Wild’s throat with a goal and assist in 1:39 to make it 4-2, but Yeo called time, implored his team to find that urgency again and Fontaine scored a huge goal to make it 5-2. Mikko Koivu added a power-play goal in the third.

The only negative mark for the game was the fact the Wild’s penalty kill amazingly gave up two power-play goals in a game for the second time this season. That’s fairly remarkable right there.

Two wins against the Blues seven days apart. Not too shabby if the Wild happens to face them in the playoffs.

“The postseason is so different,” Parise said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. We’ve got to worry about just getting there. We’re playing well and it was a big win for us against these guys. That’s always a tough opponent.

“You look at the standings, there’s not a lot of room. Regardless of who we’re playing, we need to win. We know how tough these guys are to play against. We don’t have room right now to have games off.”

The Kings lost today, so Wild’s five up on a playoff spot now.

“We’ve won a lot of games, but we haven’t been separating ourselves from anybody,” Yeo said.

Couple interesting stats:

Wild now has 153 5-on-5 goals. That’s third in the NHL behind the Lightning and Islanders.

The Wild has outscored its opponents 93-52 for a plus-41 differential in the past 30 games under Dubnyk. In the FOURTEEN games before, the Wild was outscored 58-32.

Vanek extended his point streak to seven games, which is first on the team this year and his longest since a 10-game one last year. I wrote a good amount him in the gamer and notebook, and also Stewart.

Brodin scored a goal and assist, had his first career winning goal and was plus-3. Ryan Suter (plus-3) and Charlie Coyle each had two assists, Parise’s goal was his team-leading 28th and Fontaine registered his second career three-point game.

“Anytime you get big wins against teams like that increases your confidence,” Fontaine said. “And knowing we might have them as a first-round matchup, we know things they like to do and what to look for.”

Matt Dumba led the Wild in ice time by a second over Suter (22:45).

The Wild, 12-1-2 under Dubnyk on the road, now plays back-to-back games at Toronto and the Islanders, so the franchise-record eight-game road winning streak will be on the line.

The Wild doesn’t practice Sunday (travel day only) so I’ll be doing a Brodin story for Monday’s paper. The kid’s just an incredible player and has had a huge bounceback year from last season. I’ve also got something else cooking in Toronto that should make for a cool story down the road.

Also, check out my Sunday Insider on Dubnyk talking about his contract "situation" on startribune.com/wild.

I’ll be on KFAN for a couple segments Monday at 9 a.m.

The Wild proves yet again at home: It doesn't lose well enough

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: March 19, 2015 - 11:24 PM

The Wild better figure out this home futility fast because it’s back in a playoff dogfight.

Eleven games left, six at home and the Wild’s again playing ordinary hockey at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild has lost four of six at home now (one regulation win in that stretch), the latest coming Thursday, 3-2, to Washington.

Remember, prior to a six-game home winning streak that preceded this 2-4 home stretch, the Wild lost eight of 10 at home (2-4-4).

The Wild, 12-1-2 on the road since Jan. 15 and winners of a franchise-record eight in a row on the road, is 19-11-5 at home. Pretty blah for a team that started 7-1 at home and has 20 road wins. I’m no math major, but that’s 12-10-5 in its past 27 home games.

Most damaging is when the Wild loses, and this only the sixth regulation loss since Jan. 15, the Wild always seems to lose by one goal. The Wild’s last seven losses since Jan. 19 (including one overtime, one shootout) have been by one goal.

The Wild is 18-11-7 in one-goal games. The Anaheim Ducks are 28-1-7.

And, frustratingly if you’re the Wild (and you, I’m certain) is the Wild often doesn’t tie these games up in the end to at least get the “loser point” everybody else seems to get nightly. Winnipeg and Los Angeles are the kings of that.

The Jets did it tonight, rallying from a goal down to beat St. Louis in a shootout. The Jets, now one point behind the Wild for the top wildcard spot, are 11-12 in overtime. The Wild is 7-7. The Kings did it last night against Anaheim, and as the norm lost but at least got a point. The Kings have lost FOURTEEN games in overtime and shootouts.

Again, the Wild is 7-7 in OT/shootouts. Other playoff contenders? Chicago is 12-6, Calgary 13-5, St. Louis 13-6, Anaheim 14-7, Nashville 13-8.

In a league that rewards losing, the Wild doesn’t lose well enough at home especially – or at least put itself in enough positions like the game in Nashville on Tuesday to get to overtime enough so it can pull out more W's.

Tonight, Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, scored his 46th and 47th goals – the last one off a set faceoff play 3:05 into the third for his eventual league-leading 11th winning goal.

“His shot’s lethal,” Chris Stewart said. “He has one of the best releases in the league. You lose that faceoff clean and it’s already in the back of the net. He has a cannon. He was the difference maker tonight.”

The Wild twice pulled two-goal deficits to one, the last coming on Jared Spurgeon’s power-play goal batting Thomas Vanek’s rebound out of mid-air from the side of the net with 5:56 left, but in the end, a last-minute flurry again wound up with no tying goal. The Wild attempted seven shots in that 1:23 with Devan Dubnyk on the bench.

Coach Mike Yeo said the similar trend at home in all these one-goal losses is the fact that the Wild’s making one big mistake or a couple breakdowns that it normally doesn’t do in its simplistic road style.

Last home game in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim, it was Matt Dumba’s turnover in front of the net on a 4-on-4 that led to the game-winning goal. Tonight on a 4-on-4, Ovechkin, going in the zone 1-on-3 and scoring off his own rebound on an awesome corral of the puck, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 39 seconds apart on 4-on-4’s. Kuznetsov’s goal came when Jonas Brodin uncharacteristically skating in front of the net with the puck and was stripped.

The Wild has one 5-on-5 goal in the past two home games. On the road, the Wild drives the net more, creates scrums and Yeo said they need to do that more at home.

The Wild has allowed 10 4-on-4 goals this year and scored five (only one in non-overtime 4-on-4’s). In comparison, the dangerous Caps have outscored opponents 11-2 on 4-on-4s.

Tonight, fourth-liner Tom Wilson drew two 4-on-4s, which seemed to be a Colorado Avalanche tactic against the Wild in last year’s playoffs.

You can read more about all that in the gamer.

Still, this was another home game where Yeo said, “We’re not that far off. The game could have taken a much different turn many times.”

But it didn’t and St. Louis comes here Saturday.

We usually play pretty well here. For whatever reason, we just haven’t had a lot of success at home,” Zach Parise said.

Dubnyk said of the home issues, “We’re not going to start thinking that way. We’re always dangerous at home, overwhelming here. We’ll continue to work and tweak some things so this continues to be a tough place to play.”

Flames won tonight, so the Kings fell back to ninth again – three points behind the Wild with a game in hand.

The standings are getting tight. So no, Dubnyk will not be getting a rest anytime soon.

Talk to you after Friday’s practice.

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