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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Posts about Wild game coverage

Calgary native Matt Dumba shines in the Wild's overtime win against the Flames

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 19, 2015 - 1:07 AM

In his hometown Saddledome where he played countless games as a kid and Western Hockey League player, Matt Dumba had his coming out party as a pro tonight with friends and family in the barn for the Wild’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Flames.

Not only did Dumba score his third goal of the season, the 20-year-old rook played his best defensive game of the season by far. Prior to Justin Fontaine’s goal, he made a great stick check to force a turnover on a 2-on-1 heading to the Wild net. That led to a Charlie Coyle to Thomas Vanek to Fontaine goal and 1-0 lead.

Then, in overtime, Dumba broke up a potential Jiri Hudler goal, then made a poised play to get the puck to Marco Scandella for a 3-on-1. Scandella fed Coyle to his right coming over the blue line. Coyle skated deep and sent the puck up top in the slot for Mikko Koivu, who made one move to the inside to deke the defenseman and scored his fourth career OT winner off a pump fake and bank off Johnny Gaudreau.

Koivu's goal snapped the Wild's 0-5-1 streak in OT's and shootouts since that run of three out of four overtime losses in December. This after Koivu may have saved goals with a bigtime backchecks in the second and third periods. Dumba also had several other big defensive plays and logged a career-high 18 minutes, 20 seconds because the Wild played most the game without Jared Spurgeon.

Said coach Mike Yeo, "Even before the play [Dumba] made in overtime, which first off saved a goal, but also just a poised play coming out of D-zone to get the puck to Marco and allow us to get on a 3-on-2 rush, I felt that was his best game as a pro even before that moment. It’s huge for us the fact that he can step up in a game like that when we lose a guy and he’s able to elevate a game to that level."

Spurgeon was nailed in the face by a deflected Mark Giordano shot on his second shift of the game 3:24 in. Spurgeon was bleeding, but for him not to come back, he could have a concussion. The Wild would have to call up Christian Folin or Jon Blum, or go with Stu Bickel on the back end, if Spurgeon can’t play in his hometown of Edmonton on Friday.

The Wild’s D stepped up bigtime in Spurgeon’s absence. Not easy to play a full game with five D against a pressure team like the Flames. They made it hard for the Wild, getting the puck deep and forechecking hard.

The Wild lost momentum in the second period because of two penalties. That kept a bunch of players on the bench and taxed penalty killers and the Wild’s already working defensemen. That seemed to halt a lot of offensive chances, but even though the Flames tied the score at 2-2 midway through the third, the Wild didn’t give up a ton of great scoring chances, and when it did, Devan Dubnyk was there.

Dubnyk has now tied his career high with 20 wins, 11 of which have come with Minnesota. He is 11-2-1 with 1.73 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in 15 consecutive starts.

Big win for the Wild, especially to do it without a defenseman for so long and especially because the Wild feel Calgary’s first goal by Hudler shouldn’t have counted (Yeo: “I don’t understand how the first goal was a goal. If a player tips a puck and his stick is at his head, unless he’s 4 feet tall, …) and because Calgary scored its tying goal 15 seconds after it seemed to get away with blatant too many men on the ice.

As I wrote before the game and in the gamer, the Wild staved off a comeback against the best comeback team in the league. The Flames have won 10 times when trailing after two. Of course, they've been down after two an amazing 28 times, which is tied for worst in the league with Edmonton and Buffalo.

The Wild, 21-2-2 when leading after two periods, held on against a Flames team that has outscored opponents 73-38 in the third for a league-best plus-35 differential.

The Wild is still in 10th place, but it is one point behind now-8th-place Los Angeles, which has won six straight and beat Colorado tonight. San Jose dropped to 9th – one point up on the Wild. The Wild is now two back of Vancouver, three back of Calgary and five back of Winnipeg for the top wildcard spot with two games in hand.

Nate Prosser logged 16:55 tonight and blocked five shots. I’m doing a story Friday on how he gets blown up by players every game, and I talked to him this morning and he had a bunch of interesting stuff to say and also said Brandon Bollig would probably get him tonight.

Prosser is the first player I saw postgame and he started laughing and said, “First shift I got smoked. Told you it would be Bollig.”

Check out Friday’s story. Lots of interesting stuff and Ryan Suter is trying hard to teach him how not to get demolished on these checks.

Suter logged 33:09 tonight. Jonas Brodin played 29:15, had an assist and blocked five shots. Scandella logged 23:23.

The Wild is 4-0-1 in its past four in Calgary and is 10-4-1 in its past 15 at Calgary after starting its franchise 3-18-4 at Calgary.

The Wild has now outscored opponents 20-6 in the first period in the Dubnyk era (15 first periods). The Wild is 29 for 29 on the penalty kill in 10 games since the All-Star break (9-1-1). Dubnyk has a .951 power-play save percentage (3 goals allowed on 61 shots). He also assisted on Dumba’s goal, his second assist with the Wild.

The Wild’s now 11-2-2 in the Dubnyk era and he’ll obviously start in his old barn Friday to wrap up this road trip (1-1).

That’s it for now. If the Wild doesn’t scrap practice Thursday in Edmonton, I’d assume it’ll be a very light one, especially for the D. Talk Thursday.

Postgame: Bad game in Vancouver just part of a very bad night for the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 17, 2015 - 1:47 AM

Think about this:

At one point tonight, the Wild was up 1-0 while the Winnipeg Jets were trailing the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames were down 3-zip to the Boston Bruins.

Then, everything spun the other direction.

At the end of the night, the Jets rallied for a shootout win, the Flames rallied for a last-second overtime win and the Wild blew that one-goal lead and was unable to tie a game in a frantic final 30 seconds with its net empty before losing 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. To make matters worse, the Los Angeles Kings rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So, in total, that means, the Wild, which at one point today could have moved into the eighth spot if it beat Vancouver and the Flames lost in regulation, fell four points behind the Canucks and Flames, three behind the now-8th-place San Jose Sharks and into 10th in the West – one point behind the Kings.

For three weeks, almost everything went the Wild's play, both with its outcomes and in the standings. Tonight, not so much. Literally one minute after Calgary won in OT (TJ Brodie backhanded a puck from the right corner off the top of the net, then Rask and in with 2 seconds left for a fluke goal), the Wild fell behind 2-1 93 seconds into the third. Since 2011, Boston is 91-1-2 when it has a 3-goal lead. Yeah, doesn't seem like tonight was meant to be for the Wild.

The Wild, which hadn't lost in regulation since Jan. 19, was unable to extend its point streak to a franchise-record 11 games after 26-year-old defenseman Alex Biega, who was given the all-alone twirl treatment by his teammates comically to start warmups, scored what turned out to be the winning goal with 8:06 left.

Jordan Schroeder, for the second time in the game, set up a second Nino Niederreiter goal with 6:25 left to cut the deficit to 3-2, but the Wild couldn’t bury one in the final seconds with an extra attacker on. Eddie Lack denied Jason Pominville a couple times and Matt Dumba missed the net from point-blank range.

Coach Mike Yeo said he was shocked the Wild didn’t tie it because the Wild did everything right in terms of getting pucks and bodies to the net, but sloppy play previously in the game doomed the Wild.

During the Wild’s 10-1-2 stretch, Minnesota scored first in all the victories, so it bode well when Niederreiter scored for the game’s first goal 8:55 into the first.

Jason Zucker’s injury has wreaked havoc on the Wild’s offense and speed up front, but Schroeder, a former Canucks first-round pick, has supplied offense and speed up from the farm since Zucker’s injury.

A week after scoring his first goal as a Wild against Vancouver and a few days after scoring against Carolina, Schroeder set up Niederreiter on a great play coming off the bench. He skated in front of defenseman Jonas Brodin to take a breakout pass, flew down the right-wing boards with speed and centered for a driving Niederreiter.

But the Wild wasn’t sharp from there. The Wild lost pucks off sticks, passed pucks into skates and overskated pucks. It was alarming the way the Wild routinely coughed pucks up with reckless passes high in the offensive zone.

“They were defending hard and quickly, but we were not strong enough on the puck in the offensive zone,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I think in a lot of ways that was the place we needed to win that game tonight and we didn’t do enough.”

The Wild also began overpassing constantly, especially the Thomas Vanek-Mikael Granlund-Justin Fontaine line.

“We didn’t play the game we knew we should  play,” Niederreiter said. “We had too many turnovers. Sometimes we tried to be too cute. We had to get more shots to the net and that’s exactly what cost us the game at the end.”

Instead of taking advantage of a team without top-2 defensemen Alex Edler and Chris Tanev by getting pucks deep against a blue line that should have been exposable, the Wild kept trying to make plays up top and routinely turned pucks over.

The Canucks capitalized several times in the second half of the first period by countering with speed and spending lots of time in the offensive zone.

The sloppiness cost Minnesota in the first minute of the second period. Poor management with the puck, then a bad pinch by Ryan Suter led to the Sedin Twins breaking out on a 2-on-1 against Brodin and scoring on a rebound.

The Wild went the first seven minutes in the period without a shot, couldn’t take advantage of a power play. Until late, the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Pominville line didn’t generate much.

“The puck was bouncing a lot, but we didn’t do anything to help ourselves out or be creative,” Parise said of the team. “Everything was on the wall. Not a lot of creativity in our game. …

“I felt the ice was pretty bad. It was bouncy. It was tough to get through the neutral zone. Just every time you felt like you had [the puck], it was rolling on the side. I don’t know if they were feeling the same thing, but it was one of those games where you couldn’t get anything clean, it felt like.”

Pominville also said, “It was a weird game. They play tight. Not a lot of room. A lot of chipping pucks in and not that many rush opportunities. You had to grind it out and try to stay patient and obviously they got the better hand.”

Yeo said he knew it would be a tight-checking game and without Edler and Tanev, he knew the Canucks would do a good job and have a mentality to protect the inexperience D and play a strong game in front of them.

They defended really well all night.

“They were playing tight through the neutral zone,” Yeo said. “There weren’t a lot of clean entries,” although Yeo felt the Wild retrieved pucks well but “didn’t generate anything whatsoever after that.”

As I called it on Twitter, a ton of one-and-outs.

On this being such a colossally bad night for the Wild in the standings, Yeo said, “There’s a lot of hockey left,” adding if a few weeks ago you said the Wild would take two out of three on the Canucks – a team it’s chasing – in eight days, the Wild would have been happy with that.

“There’s still a lot of season left,” Yeo said, although he said there were some breakdowns on each of the goals against that much be corrected by Wednesday.

That’s it for me. Devan Dubnyk wasn’t happy with the winning goal, feeling he was interfered with by Alex Burrows and then taunted by the agitator right after. You can read those quotes in the gamer. Hard call there for the officials on the contact and eight days ago in Vancouver, Dubnyk got the benefit of a questionable incidental contact call that went against Vancouver and wiped out a big Canucks goal.

The problem on this shift was the play in front of Dubnyk as the fourth line and defensemen Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon got trapped in the zone for more than a minute and got dead-legged. As I said to my colleague next to me 10 seconds before the goal, “This will be a goal or a penalty.”

Yeo subtly mentioned after that the Wild deserved more than the one power play that it got. And there was undoubtedly blatant obstruction let go and a slash on a Vanek breakaway.

But at the end of the day, the Canucks played better tonight. The Wild was sloppy and it ultimately was doomed by poor puck management and constant turnovers at both blue lines. And the Wild was credited with only seven hits!

But as Yeo said, there’s a lot of season left.

“That’s going to happen,” Parise said of the bad night in the standings. “We’re not going to win every game the rest of the season and the other teams aren’t going to lose every game. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it’s going to be.”

That’s it for me. Check out the game notebook as well because I wrote a little on the price of trades right now and one of the things that may inhibit the Wild’s ability to do something substantial.

Talk to you after practice Tuesday in Calgary.

Riding a 10-game point streak, Wild's about to head to Vancouver and Calgary, two teams it's chasing

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 14, 2015 - 11:41 PM

There was a time back in the day when the Wild seemed to have no former collegiate players or only a handful.

Tonight, all five goal scorers in Minnesota’s 6-3 win over Carolina and one of the chief playmakers all spent time at some higher-level institutions.

The goal scorers: Ex-University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Thomas Vanek (two goals), Jordan Schroeder (one) and Erik Haula (one), former Colorado College Tiger Nate Prosser (winning goal) and former University of North Dakota Fighting Nicknamelesses Zach Parise (empty-netter).

Justin Fontaine, a former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog, had two assists as he was elevated to the right side of the Vanek-Mikael Granlund line and did a great job. Vanek’s first goal, Fontaine chipped a puck, split the D and pressured John-Michael Liles into a turnover before Granlund set up Vanek for a gaping-netter. Then, after a Granlund faceoff win and Ryan Suter dump to his corner, Fontaine was first on the puck, evaded Tim Gleason, skated behind the net and sent a cross-crease pass to Vanek, who lost Liles, for the easy goal.

Vanek had his first 2-goal game with the Wild and the 49th of his career. He also had his second 3-point game. Granlund also had two assists and was plus-3. Suter and Jonas Brodin were also plus-3.

The Wild, 8-0-2 in its past 10, matched its franchise-record point streak (9-0-1, March 2007), is 8-0-1 since the All-Star break, is 10-1-2 in 13 games since Devan Dubnyk’s arrival and has won five in a row at home heading into a three-game trek to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton (the opposite route of its western Canadian sweep immediately after the break a few weeks back).

Winnipeg rallied to beat Detroit in a shootout, so the Wild only was able to keep pace with the Jets, who are five up. But the Wild has played three fewer games.

The Wild also only kept pace on eighth because Calgary beat Vancouver. So the Canucks and Flames are each two up on the Wild.

The first two opponents on this road trip, the Canucks and Flames. Drama!

It’s amazing, last week when the Wild was idle for four days, everything seemed to go its way and everybody lost. Now it’s winning again and so is everybody else, so it can’t crack that top-8. If it was in eighth after tonight, it would have been the first time since Nov. 24.

Still, the Wild’s doing its job and keeps getting points.

Coach Mike Yeo expected a low-scoring, tight-checking game, something he joked he was wrong about after. But he knew it would be a tough game. The Hurricanes entered 9-4-3 in their past 16 and have had a no-quit attitude and that certainly showed tonight as it turned 3-0 and 4-1 leads into a 4-3 deficit to tighten the Wild’s collar going into the third.

Schroeder scored an awesome goal scorer’s type goal to make it 3-0 (goalie coach Bob Mason told him before to game to shoot anywhere blocker on former Wild goalie Anton Khudobin), but then a terrible shift by Matt Dumba in the last minute led to a Jared Spurgeon icing and Carolina made it 3-1 with 10.3 seconds left in the period.

Nate Prosser made it 4-1 in the second when his backdoor pass meant he said for Schroeder deflected in off Justin Faulk’s stick.

Then, weirdness by referee Dan O’Halloran. He calls Andrej Sekera for cross-checking, then allows 15 seconds of delayed penalty with goalie Devan Dubnyk on the bench for seven seconds before blowing it down when possession changed. Then, he evens out the calls by calling Mikko Koivu for embellishing the cross-check. Well, then how on earth was there a delayed penalty for 15 seconds if it was always going to be 4-on-4?

That changed the game. Instead of the Wild going on a power play up 4-1, it’s 4-on-4, turnover, Jeff Skinner scored and 90 seconds later, Elias Lindholm tips Faulk’s point shot to make it 4-3.

But in the third, the Wild played pretty well and Haula eased tension by having a Kyle Brodziak centering pass carom in off his braking right skate.

Normally, Minnesota and Carolina are two of the NHL’s stingiest defensive teams, but the Duby vs. Doby show wasn’t exactly a goalie duel.

Dubnyk, who had given up 17 goals in 12 previous starts with the Wild, gave up three. Khudobin, a 2004 seventh-round pick by Minnesota, gave up five on 18 shots.

There was nothing the Kazakhstani goalie could do on the first two goals. Vanek scored off two alley-oops.

Dubnyk made 24 saves to improve to 10-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Canes coach Bill Peters started Khudobin over Cam Ward because he beat his former Boston Bruins earlier this season and because he entered with a career .959 save percentage at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild was beaten in a lot of races and board battles and turned pucks over in a poorly played second, but Yeo said he’ll look at the bright side and say while it made things more tense, “it’s probably better for us going out on the road that we had to play a meaningful third period or at least play a third period where we had to be sharper in a lot of areas in terms of how we played with the puck, structure-wise. If you carry some bad habits on the road, it’s going to be tougher to get it back.”

Yeo expected a hard game. The Canes have played well since the turn of the calendar, have beaten good teams and is happy his team hung on in the third.

He was very pleased with the job Fontaine did on the Vanek-Granlund line, saying because he played the right way.

“It’s not easy for some of those guys when they get elevated to a different line and they think it’s their turn to score some points and ‘it’s my ticket to staying there,’” Yeo said. “Quite often that could lead to turnovers or just being a liability.”

Yeo said they’ll take this trip one game at a time. “One win doesn’t mean we’re there and one loss doesn’t mean we’re not there. This is all just part of the process right now. We’ve been climbing back in it and we’ve gotten ourselves closer and there’s still an awful lot of hockey left this year, so our focus right now is to come to the rink [Sunday], we have to have practice, we have to have a good practice and then we head out on the road for Game 1.”

Prosser on his goal said, “Usually you won’t find me down there too often. I saw an opportunity coming off the bench. I just tried to sneak backdoor. Perfect sauce pass [by Vanek]. I didn’t have to move my stick. By the time I got in and was ready to shoot it, Khudobin came out and his body was so big, I didn’t see anywhere to shoot the puck so I just tried hopefully getting lucky putting it backdoor.”

Prosser also praised Vanek, saying, “When guys are down and injured, we need him scoring goals and making plays and that’s definitely what he’s doing.”

The Wild’s PK is now 25 for 25 in nine games since the All-Star break. The Wild has scored first in all 10 wins of the 10-1-2 streak. The Wild has also outscored opponents 17-5 in the past 13 first periods since Dubnyk was acquired.

On all the Gophers scoring, Schroeder said, “It was fun. More importantly we got the win as a team. That’s the bottom line.”

That’s it for me. Rachel Blount is covering the Wild’s practice Sunday as I fly to Vancouver. She’ll blog and I’m sure you can hear from me on Twitter. Talk Monday from the land of the Canuckleheads.

Behind great goaltending and special teams, Wild picks up points for a ninth consecutive game

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 12, 2015 - 11:22 PM

Advance warning, this blog may be as blah as the game.

I don’t have much more to say that I didn’t put in the game story.

Part of the reason, as we were working the room for postgame interviews, I happened to glance at the board and noticed the Wild canceled practice Friday. So suddenly I went into work-ahead mode to gather yarn on a Mikko Koivu story I plan for Saturday’s paper.

The Wild captain has been great the past dozen games and not coincidentally the Wild is 9-1-2 in that stretch to again be two back of a playoff spot and five back of the Jets with three games in hand. It’s a shame practice is scrapped because they were practicing at St. Thomas Academy on Friday, and it would have been a perfect opportunity to do a Jordan Schroeder story from the house that Jordan Schroeder built.

But Koivu’s a pretty decent story and coach Mike Yeo went on and on about him after the game. I also got some great anecdotes from his longtime pal Stephane Veilleux, so you can read all that Saturday.

Tonight, in a 2-1 win over Florida, Koivu assisted on goals by Jason Pominville and Zach Parise and Devan Dubnyk, in his 12th straight start, made 26 saves, including eight on the Wild’s 5 for 5 penalty kill that is a perfect 22 for 22 in eight games since the All-Star break.

The Wild is 7-0-1 since the break and 7-0-2 in its past nine, meaning it’ll have a chance to tie the franchise-record 10-game point streak if it wins or gets a point Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Yeo wasn’t overly ecstatic by the way the Wild played, saying its puck management was “very poor.” But Yeo felt this game was a trap game after playing four games in six days, three in four and not having a “hatred” of the Panthers the way it did after a string of games against Calgary, Vancouver, Chicago, Colorado and Vancouver.

So Yeo was happy the Wild found a way to win.

Special teams was huge with a power-play goal and perfect PK.

“Best penalty killer is always your goalie,” Yeo said of Dubnyk, who continues to swallow pucks and constantly come out to play pucks to allow his defensemen to clear or get on transition. His puck-handling ability has been a huge reason for this turnaround.

Parise now has 22 goals, which is 12th in the NHL. He has eight power-play goals, which is tied for 11th.

Pominville, who had a 12-game goalless drought as of Monday, has three goals in the past three games. It was our first look at the new liberalized puck off a skate rules. I tweeted no chance the goal would count because I had yet to see the new rule in action.

This goal, as an NHL executive confirmed to me, would have disallowed last year. Pominville never had a distinct kicking motion, but he turned his skate to intentionally redirect the puck.

Asked if he thought it would count, he said, “I had no idea. I think there’s a new rule, right, where you kinda can kick it?”

I guess so as I learned the hard way because my many of my Twitter followers tore me to shreds. I took it like a champ, well, except for the three 10-year-olds who called me names and now no longer follow me.

Awesome Star Tribune Guys Night Out before the game. More than 350 people came and my thanks to Bill Butters, Brad Maxwell, Jack Carlson and Steve Payne for joining. Loved the questions I got from Wild fans.

That’s it for moi. Please check out the gamer for more details and the game notebook, both on startribune.com/wild.

No practice for the Wild on Friday. Barring news, no blog, as I write my Koivu feature and my Sunday package on the Evander Kane trade and how it affects the Wild.

Tired, undermanned Wild settles for a point in big divisional game against Winnipeg

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 11, 2015 - 12:45 AM

The Wild (0-5-1 in its past six overtime/shootouts) was obviously disappointed not to get that second point tonight, but after playing the night before in a win over Vancouver and having to overextend its bench because it was down two forwards for most the game, the Wild was at least pleased it could grind out a point in tonight’s 2-1 OT loss here in Winnipeg.

Dustin Byfuglien, always a thorn in the Wild’s side (ask Mikael Granlund), is back at forward since tossing Evander Kane’s clothes in the shower and it certainly worked tonight when he scored the overtime winner with 59.3 seconds left.

Jared Spurgeon sent a reckless, spinning pass from the left circle up top to a tired Mikko Koivu (Koivu and Jason Pominville were on the ice 1:16 the final shift of the game, which would be long in regulation, let alone OT). Big Buff read it, picked it up and sprinted out of the zone past a desperately-diving Koivu.

Ryan Suter did a good job denying the pass and Buff looked like he was skating himself into too tight of an angle, but then he wristed a beauty toward the far post and in to beat Devan Dubnyk.

Uncharacteristic mistake for Spurgeon, and he took a swan dive on the knife when I grabbed him after the game. But he was hardly the only Wild player who made a tired mistake tonight.

Yeo recognized the lack of energy early, and he expected it. The Jets, knowing the Wild played the night before and knowing the Wild’s depth is ravaged right now with Jason Zucker out for the season and Ryan Carter at least a month, came out pressuring early, came out hitting and spent almost the entire first period in the Wild end.

Devan Dubnyk, the Wild’s savior since his Jan. 14 arrival, was the savior again in the first with the Wild looking like it was in survival mode from the opening puck drop. Winnipeg had the first 10 shots, a 13-1 shot lead at one point and a 15-3 shot lead at one point. But Dubnyk got the Wild out of that period and the second period scoreless.

The Wild did have plenty of chances, too. And Michael Hutchinson was good. But 2:29 after Toby (used to be Tobias) Enstrom scored on a point shot that deflected in off Nino Niederreiter’s stick (first Wild deficit in 419 minutes, 32 seconds since Jan. 20), Zach Parise forced a turnover with a nice stick check and Jason Pominville, who was having a tough game to that point, unloaded on the loose puck for his second goal in two games after none in the previous 12.

That forced a big point that at least pulled the Wild within two of a playoff spot. But because of Byfuglien’s winner, the Wild is seven back of Winnipeg instead of five. The Wild has played three fewer games though and still this is quite a chop into Winnipeg’s lead when one recalls the Wild was 14 back of the Jets as of Jan. 27.

So the six-game winning streak is history, but the Wild is 8-1-2 in its past 11.

On the Big Buff winner, Dubnyk, like he’s so good at, dissected the play for us and what he was thinking.

“He’s got a dangerous shot. I’ve seen him coming down. I want to make sure I can get out on him because he can tee that up, too. When he got down there in tight, I thought he was going to take it to the net and go to his backhand. I flattened out a little bit and he flicked his wrists over and made a nice shot. You always want to save them, but nice play by him. Leave it at that and move on.”

And that was the message after the game.

The Wild will have a much-needed rest day Wednesday and now plays every other night the next nine games. The Florida game on Thursday is the third game in four nights and traditionally for most teams when it’s three in four after a home-road back-to-back, that third game could be hairy.

So Yeo said the Wild has a big challenge in front of it and must dig deep and find the character to get back on track and continue this streak going. The Wild has a brief two-game homestand before hitting the road for Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton – the opposite route of the recent western Canadian sweep.

Yeo changed his lines in the second period and moved center Charlie Coyle with Parise and Koivu at right wing, moved Mikael Granlund to the middle of Niederreiter and Pominville and had an all-Gopher line with Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek.

It seemed to have its desired effect because at least the Wild started getting some offensive chances and eventually turned that 15-3 shot deficit into a 20-20 shot tabulation.

But Yeo said after the game that he didn’t know if the team would come back with that and the coaches have started talking as to how to get the best out of the players with Zucker and Carter out. Add Matt Cooke to that, and the Wild’s minus three left-wing, penalty-killing guys who love to go north.

That’s where the Wild could be lacking bigtime with these guys all out long-term at once. It’ll be interesting to see if the Wild call upon Tyler Graovac at some point because he has size, can skate and has skill. But Zucker’s speed will be missed bigtime (not to mention his offense) and so will Carter’s grittiness on a team that is more finesse.

The Wild’s depth will be tested the rest of the season, that is for sure.

Dubnyk said it’s imperative the Wild just puts this behind it and gets ready for Thursday. He said most important now is to get points, and to get a point in a tough game like this was big.

“It was a huge game against a team that we’re chasing, but we’ll have to continue to win games down the stretch and we’ll do the same thing we’ve been doing,” he said.

That's it for me. I have a 6 a.m. flight back to Minnesota, so I should get out of here. No practice Wednesday, but I'll have a decent follow in Thursday's paper that I'm sure will interest you. Barring news, next you'll hear from me is Thursday morning as America's team, the Florida Panthers come to town.

Star Tribune Guys Night Out is Thursday night before the game, too, but I think it's sold out.

If you want to check out Jim Souhan and I do our live podcast, we’re doing one at the Local in Minneapolis on Wednesday night at 5 o’clock. It’s also on souhanunfiltered.com.

Also, if you want to see a special private screening of Red Army at the Lagoon in Uptown on Wednesday night, check this link out. I'll be moderating a Q and A afterward.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT