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

Collars are tightening in Minnesota, where tension is building as the Wild keeps losing

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 11, 2015 - 11:34 PM

The Wild’s a depressed, broken, absolutely lost team right now, and I have no clue how the Wild fixes this.

It’s sloppy, has forgotten how to play defense, how to compete for anything remotely close to 60 minutes. It’s lethargic and outskated, outplayed and outworked in almost every single game.

Other than that, things are just peachy right now as the NHL’s most disappointing team rolled into the halfway mark with 41 points and an 11th loss in 13 games, a 5th straight loss and 16th loss in the past 23.

Please check out the game story as well on www.startribune.com/wild, but a down-and-out Ryan Suter actually apologized to the scribes for his despondent, glum quotes after tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

“When it rains it pours, and it’s pouring,” said Suter, who said he didn’t know what to say anymore after losses.

When I asked if this team was in a full-scale crisis, he said, “It is. It’s not good. It’s not fun to be a part of. It’s not fun to play. I don’t know what’s going on.

“Everybody’s saying the right things and everybody wants to do the right things. It just seems like everything that could go wrong is going wrong. It’s tough to win in this league, and especially when every single thing seems to be making it harder for you to play. I was talking with Zach [Parise], and we’ve never been through, … we’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now.”

So, after two years of making the playoffs and looking like this team was ready to take the next step, the Wild’s 2014-15 slogan has unexpectedly become, “Every day’s a bad day.”

The stress is written on Mike Yeo’s face and is in his raspy voice after every loss. He seems sick right now, and not just with the flu.

After every game, red-faced, angry Chuck Fletcher looks like he has been in a prize fight.

Owner Craig Leipold attended tonight’s game with two of his bosom buddies. He, too, just rolled his eyes and said to make sure I get in that he actually stayed for the entire game.

It was indicated in late December and within the past couple days that Yeo’s job was safe, but if the Wild does plan to ride this out and Fletcher’s hands are cuffed by the ability to make meaningful trades because of the way this team is constructed between unmovable veterans and youngsters the Wild doesn’t want to pull the plug on, it’s hard to see how the heck this team’s going to dig out of the muck without Yeo paying the ultimate price.

He has dodged bullets before with guys like Peter Laviolette and others waiting to be grasped. This time, the Wild’s going to Pittsburgh, where his pal Dan Bylsma is unemployed. There’s also Pete DeBoer, who coached Parise in New Jersey, and hard-$&$ Randy Carlyle, who may be the type of abrasive, stern voice this team needs. There's Paul MacLean, who interviewed for the job before Yeo got it.

“I’m not going to get wrapped up in that,” Yeo said. “I know one thing, I’m going to keep doing my stuff. That’s the way I am and I would expect the same from them. That’s the one thing that we’ve talked about several times now is you control what you can control. If you’re doing your job, then that’s what matters.”

This team is broken. It’s lacked energy and excitement for seven weeks. The type of play that made the Wild effective previously is so lost and forgotten, I don’t see how this sluggish, dragging team just magically finds it.

And players just are at a loss. The comments are so sad and gloomy after every game. No answers.

“That’s what’s frustrating,” Yeo said of the melancholy attitude of the team. “How we handle this is everything to me. Typically we’ve been a team that handles adversity. It brings out the best in us. Right now it’s doing the opposite.”

It has a planned day off Monday, so it’s not even expected to practice before Tuesday’s next game against Pittsburgh.

Suter is a minus-18 in the past 19 games and in my opinion looks this way because Yeo is forced to skate him into the ground because of how this team nightly has a third pair it doesn’t trust. Mikko Koivu was as bad and as slow tonight as I have seen him in a long time. Well-earned minus-2 and about five times where he was unable to get a puck a foot from the defensive blue line even out of the zone. Jason Pominville was bigtime responsible for the first goal against. Nino Niederreiter hasn’t scored in 12 games. There are many other passengers.

In the D-zone, the Wild came out soft and allowed the Blackhawks all the room in the world to skate around and through them, particularly in the first 10 minutes. Four goals came by guys left wide open, the last being a 3-on-1.

“We’ve got guys in position, but it’s not enough to be close to guys,” Yeo said. “It’s about being hard in that position, it’s about pressuring. You give a team like that all kind of time and space, they’re going to break you down.”

The goalies, we’ve discussed. Nothing he could have done tonight, but Niklas Backstrom has allowed 24 goals in the past seven starts.

Half the season’s in the garbage. The Wild’s in 12th place, last in the Central, 19 points out of the conference lead.

“I’m glad that we still have half a season, but there’s some things that are concerning,” Yeo said. “I still have confidence in this group, still know what we’re capable of, but there’s no doubt the clock is ticking here.”

Said Matt Cooke, “We have half a season. There’s still lots of time, but today’s the day. Now’s the time. We can’t keep looking forward. We’ve got to look in the moment.

“We’ve got to dig ourselves out. It doesn’t get any easier. No one’s just going to give us a win.”

Onto Pittsburgh. Long travel day Monday. Wild’s not leaving Chicago til 12:30. Barring news, you may only be hearing from me on Twitter and in Tuesday’s paper, where I plan a midseason analysis.

Wild postgame: Same old, same old

Posted by: Rachel Blount Updated: January 10, 2015 - 7:31 PM

This is going to sound awfully repetitive, I know. But here goes: the Wild couldn't sustain a good effort Saturday, had too many defensive breakdowns and offensive stallouts, crumbled on the power play and lost the goaltending battle. And the game.

Only the true believers would have predicted the Wild would have busted its slump against Nashville, the NHL's best team. That didn't make it any less aggravating for fans to see it drop a 3-1 decision at Xcel, ending a three-game homestand with a dreadful 0-2-1 record. The Wild has won only once in its past eight at home, dating to Dec. 17, going 1-3-4.

The Wild got worse as the game went on Saturday and was booed during its last couple of power plays, as well as at the final horn. In the third period, a guy in the upper deck yelled, 'Let's play hockey!" in a very irritated tone of voice. It sounded as if he thought the activity happening on the ice was something else entirely. From the Wild's point of view, it certainly wasn't good hockey, and no one tried to sugar-coat this one.

Coach Mike Yeo thought the Wild played well enough in the first period, when it outshot Nashville 14-8 and tied the score 1-1 on Charlie Coyle's first goal in eight games. Then it started getting sloppy. The Wild lost puck battles, passed erratically, didn't handle good passes, fell asleep on defense. And the power play ... ugh. The Wild got five power plays--including three in the second period, with a chance to seize the lead--and managed a total of six shots on goal.

"In the second period in particular, we started to get loose with the puck, careless with the puck,'' Yeo said. "And a lot of plays, a lot of chances, were coming off the rush. And I think because of that, we not only gave them momentum, but we lost momentum in our own game.''

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, the best netminder in the NHL, contributed to the Wild's demise. But Yeo didn't want to give him too much credit, despite a handful of marvelous saves. Rinne stopped 36 of 37 shots; the Wild's Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves on 27 shots.

"Early on, I thought we challenged (Rinne) a little bit,'' Yeo said. "I liked the way we scored our first goal: putting pucks at the net, getting bodies to the net. I thought we drifted further away from that as the night went on. No doubt he made a couple of big saves, but I do think we could have done some things better to challenge him more.''

The Wild really made some huge mistakes Saturday, including Jonas Brodin's giveaway behind the Wild net that led to the first Nashville goal; Justin Falk's turnover in the third period, when he had the puck in the corner of the Wild zone and flung it out to Colin Wilson for an easy goal; and Thomas Vanek's failure to shoot on a breakaway in the first period, when he instead tried to pass to a trailing Zach Parise.

Regarding the power play, Yeo criticized the Wild for failed entries, an inability to get set up in the zone and a reluctance to shoot. "I always believe shooting the puck brings a lot of momentum, especially when you're playing at home,'' he said. "And we didn’t have that feeling tonight.''

Asked the million-dollar question for the millionth time--how can the Wild turn things around?--Yeo said:

"We've got to win games. It’s a different type of game tonight, but a similar result. We've got to find ways to win hockey games, and as lame as that might sound, that’s what it is. It's executing. It's making a tape-to- tape play when there's an opportunity there. It's grabbing a lead when you have the opportunity, or making sure you prevent goals against in certain situations. It's something different every game.

"We're spinning our tires right now. Our last game (a 4-2 loss to Chicago), we played a good game, but we fell short. We need the mindset coming back today, at the very least, (to play) a similar type game. And I thought we did that for 20 minutes. But to not do it for a full 60, that’s tough.

"I don’t want to say it's mental. It's mental, it's physical, it’s a focus, it's an execution, it's been something different from one night to the next. But I would say as much as anything else, we've got to make sure we bring an attitude where we're going to be at our best for 60 minutes.''

Though this loss wasn't Niklas Backstrom's fault, it did demonstrate how an outstanding goalie can pump up his entire team. Parise had this to say about Rinne's role in the victory:

"(Rinne made) a big difference. He made some really big saves at key times. He seems to be a guy that always keeps them in games and really wins games for them and gives them a sense of belief they can win every game. He's a great goalie.''

So now the Wild hits the road again, going to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Buffalo with only two victories in its past 12 games. As Parise also said, it doesn't get any easier.

RACHEL BLOUNT

   

Wild feels it takes positive step in loss to Blackhawks; Fletcher talks trades, Yeo

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 8, 2015 - 11:55 PM

As I said on the award-winning Wild Minute video on www.startribue.com/wild (truth: it has never won an award and never will), I know it’s hard for Wild fans to stomach moral victories this time of year and with what’s been going on with your favorite team the last (what feels like) eternity.

But when you’re a team on the outside looking in of the playoff race, when you’re a reeling team desperately searching for positive steps toward getting your game back in line, when you’re a team trying to rediscover some confidence and some passion and some work ethic and you completely outplay a team like the Chicago Blackhawks and lose, what message do you expect to emerge from the locker room after?

Hey, the Wild has been saying, “We stink,” for a month. Tonight, it outshoots the Blackhawks 44-20 -- 37-10 in the final two periods – and lose, 4-2, (two-goal loss because the Blackhawks get an empty-netter almost every time it faces the Wild), and I didn’t find it shocking that the Wild painted a pretty picture after this one.

Coach Mike Yeo said all day that the Wild wouldn’t make the playoffs if it won tonight and wouldn’t miss the playoffs if it loss, but it had to begin the process of rebuilding its game if it wants any shot at making the playoffs. And that meant good start, good attitude, good work ethic.

What Yeo liked, he said, is the fact that the Wild came out with good energy, outplayed the Blackhawks at even-strength, still found itself down 2-zip after one, yet didn’t stop playing.

Everybody in the Blackhawks’ room and their coach admitted they were thoroughly outplayed by the Wild and Corey Crawford stole the show. And I get the fan cynicism of, “Oh, another goalie played like the second coming of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur against us” that I saw on Twitter.

But, to borrow a Brian Rolston line, it is what it is. The Wild deserved better. It didn’t get it. Deal with the locker-room positivity for one night. Let’s be honest: If it keeps bashing its head against the wall even in games it plays well in, it’ll never get out of this mess it put itself in.

(Give me this: That’s a record amount of it, its and itself’s in one paragraph right above).

Crawford was awesome, and in one game, it kind of exemplified exactly what the Wild’s issue has been for much of this season.

Crawford gave Chicago the type of goaltending performance the Wild rarely gets. Crawford stole his team two points with 42 stops.

At the exact point the Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead 6:20 into the third, -- whether you think Bryan Bickell’s snipe was world-class or not, whether you think Niklas Backstrom had any chance on Patrick Kane or not (he didn’t), whether you think Patrick Sharp got the benefit of a good bounce or not -- Backstrom had stopped 13 of 16 shots while Crawford was saving the Hawks’ hide shot after shot after frigin shot.

That is the Wild’s season in a nutshell right there.

The now has allowed a league-low 26.8 shots per game. The Wild now has the NHL’s 29th-ranked .893 save percentage. That’s a mathematical implausibility if there ever was one, no?

It’s why I reported in Thursday’s paper that the Wild’s looking for a goalie and why I sought out GM Chuck Fletcher to confirm such a fact this morning (actually, I bumped into him while he was using his phone, which was a sight I saw almost every time I “bumped” into him today).

In the story that will appear in Friday’s paper and can be read by clicking this link, Fletcher talks about trade scenarios, gave an indication of what he’s thinking and also again gave a vote of confidence to coach Mike Yeo and his staff.

While tonight may have not been Backstrom’s fault per se, watching Crawford steal a game and stifle the Wild at every turn probably reaffirmed to Fletcher what it must fix, either now or 100 percent heading into next season.

As for the game, 17 of 18 Wild skaters had at least one shot.

Jason Zucker scored his team-leading 15th goal, had five shots, three hits and logged 20 minutes for the first time in his career (21:42, first among Wild forwards).

Jordan Schroeder, fresh off the Iowa farm, probably earned himself another game whether or not Zach Parise plays Saturday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

He had seven shots in 9:49 of ice time and his speed and offensive prowess supplied a spark. Schroeder and fellow Gopher alum Thomas Vanek (one assist, five shots) played well together.

Schroeder said it was fun to play, but “at the end of the day, we didn’t capitalize on our chances. But definitely, a good building block to go off of. It stinks losing, but we’ve got to keep our heads up because we played a solid hockey game.”

Yeo said that the reason the Wild sent Brett Sutter down and brought up Schroeder was because without Parise and injured Mikael Granlund, you lose two speed guys and Schroeder “showed me something tonight. I was very impressed with his game.”

Ryan Suter, by the way, logged 33:22 tonight, a season-high in regulation (somebody text Clayton Stoner!!!). He attempted 11 shots – seven that were blocked.

Obviously, a lot of this is because Marco Scandella is injured, but have I mentioned the Wild needs a defenseman lately, preferably a left-shot one???

That’s it for me. Please read the game story here, the Fletcher-led notebook which I linked to above and our final online obituary for the great J.P. Parise, which has been thoroughly updated throughout the day by my awesome editor, Chris Miller.

If you didn’t see the Wild’s video tribute to J.P., here it is.

There is a chance Zach Parise practices Friday, but I’m not sure yet. Rachel Blount will be covering practice, so please follow www.twitter.com/blountstrib.

There’s a chance he plays this weekend, too, but we will see. It’ll be completely up to him.

The Wild hopes to announce funeral information Friday. It’s obviously a family decision, but I know the Wild wants badly to attend and support its teammate. If it’s Monday, the Wild could return to Minnesota Sunday after its game in Chicago and then fly to Pittsburgh Monday night for its Tuesday game there.

This has been exhausting, emotional day and I’m wiped out, so I’m finally heading home. Somebody told me it snowed today?

Reeling Wild has a serious, serious goaltending problem

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 7, 2015 - 9:57 AM

First and foremost, all my thoughts tonight are with J.P. Parise, Zach and the rest of the Parise family and all of J.P.’s friends who are so deeply affected tonight.

One of the most amazing things I witnessed tonight was Wild radio analyst Tom Reid, J.P.’s close, close friend, with tears in his eyes and heartbreak in his voice soldier on tonight and somehow call this game. This man was absolutely broken and still managed to get through.

As hard as it was to write Saturday’s game story and postgame blog just minutes after my emotional interview with Zach and hear him open up about what he and his family and his poor dad is going through, it was tougher tonight to concentrate knowing Parise wasn’t here and at his dad’s side.

“This was kind of our thing,” I kept hearing Parise say. That was one of Parise’s most gripping lines from the article in Tuesday’s paper and a reference to how hockey was the bond he shares with his father.

So I can only imagine how difficult it had to be for all his friends and teammates to play tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Jason Pominville said Wild teammates were “thinking about him quite a bit” and that “most of the talk” before the game “was about Zach. It’s just tough to see something like this hapcpening to a teammate, a friend and big part of this team.”

“A lot of guys were a little down and thinking about what was going on,” said Pominville, who added that they were able to pull together and put forth a good effort.

Parise called buddy Ryan Suter before the game to let him know what was going on.

“For him to be going through what he’s going through is just awful. I couldn’t even imagine what he’s going through and what he has been going through. To play through it says a lot about who he is and his dad would be proud of him. Zach’s a professional and it’s just too bad the circumstances right now.

“Everyone cares about each other in here. Life is so much bigger than hockey. He definitely made the right decision to be with his family and we’re all thinking about him.”

The Wild tried to go on without him, but it fell 4-3 in overtime – the fourth overtime loss in six home games – because of once again poor goaltending.

The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon 2:01 apart in the first period.

Goalie Alex Stalock, the St. Paul native and former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog, came out of his net to play the puck, Stalock froze, Pominville got his stick on it and the puck deflected right to Zucker to the left of the near post. Zucker deked and scored over Stalock’s blocker.

A few shifts later, a pinching Spurgeon made it 2-0 when Zucker set him up in the right circle for his fifth goal and second in three games.

Kuemper, coming off a fifth game since Nov. 13 in which he was chased early from the Wild net, was sharp early. He stopped all eight San Jose shots he saw in the first period, and then was good again in the second until some bad luck cost the Wild.

In the same end but opposite side of where Brent Seabrook’s line change dump-in nailed a stanchion and popped out to the slot for Patrick Kane to stick a dagger in the Wild’s season last playoff, Brent Burns, the former Wild defenseman, perfectly placed a dump-in off the stanchion.

As Kuemper came out to play the puck, the puck ricocheted right into the slot with no Wild players in the vicinity. Melker Karlsson was, however, and the 24-year-old Swedish free-agent acquisition scored his third goal in the past three games by slipping a backhander underneath Kuemper.

In the third, Joe Pavelski tied the score off a faceoff. Just 74 seconds later, Kuemper kicked a weird hop off a Tommy Wingels shot past Suter and right back to Wingels for the go-ahead goal.

Charlie Coyle set up Zucker (two goals, one assist, plus-3, eight shots, two hits) for the tying goal with 7:48 left, but in overtime, after Nino Niederreiter, Thomas Vanek, Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin got caught out on the ice a long time and trapped because of an icing (the new rule change where teams switch sides in OT to cause a long change and thus more fatigue and more goals is absolutely destroying the Wild), Kuemper somehow let in a 43-footer from atop the left circle right next to the left-wing boards to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who scored with 4.5 seconds left in regulation the night before in Winnipeg.

Yes, the guy who broke Dany Heatley’s shoulder, which kept the Wild from buying him out two summers ago, struck again!

Cue Suter: “I thought we competed hard. I thought we played well. I’m sure the last couple Kuemps would like to have back. That’s part of the game. We competed well. We have to continue to compete like that and the luck will change for sure.”

Asked to expand on the erratic goaltending (not just lately, but the past two months), Suter said, “It’s a team game. We’re going to stick together. He’s the future of this team and we have to stand with him. He’ll get out of it. He’ll come around and until he does we just have to play even harder.”

Coach Mike Yeo opened his presser by saying, “Most of the things about that game I liked. I liked our resiliency to battle back after the third goal, I liked our resiliency to kill that penalty late in the game (on Vanek) and even before the goal in overtime I thought we had control of the play there until the one shift in the defensive zone.”

Asked what he thought of the goaltending, Yeo said, “We’re not in a position where we can have anybody be below average and it always starts and ends with goaltending. It’s a tricky one trying to be sensitive to his confidence, but that goal in overtime can’t go in.”

Kuemper is 24, but he ranks 53rd in the NHL with a .902 save percentage. Niklas Backstrom ranks 60th with an .896. As many flaws as the Wild has right now, the team’s game began to fall apart when the goaltending did. It is hard to play if you’re confidence in your goalies wane.

Yeo said, “You try to be sensitive to confidence. I’ve never believed it’s a one-man show out there, but it does start with goaltending and it ends with goaltending. That’s just the reality of the position, that’s what you sign up for when you play. But we’re just not in a position where we can have anybody, regardless of whether it’s a goaltender or a centerman or a defenseman or a winger, we can’t have anybody playing below average games right now. We’ve got Granny out of the lineup, we have Zach out of the lineup, and at that point, guys need to elevate their games in every position. I thought collectively as a team we did a lot of things very well tonight, but whether it’s a goaltender or anybody else, you’ve got to make sure that you’re bringing your share to the party.”

Pressure’s on GM Chuck Fletcher here. Josh Harding’s not coming back. That’s obvious. Backstrom is likely unmovable. Kuemper can’t be sent to the minors without waivers, and he’d be claimed for sure.

So either you continue to ride this instability out and have it maybe cost you this season or you trade for a goalie and probably have to keep three on the active roster. And, how much of an asset can you really give up for said goalie when there’s no assurance a goalie saves your season? Even Yeo admitted in a different context after the game, “There’s a lot of points that we’re leaving out there right now, so that’s disappointing.”

But Yeo again made very clear his displeasure tonight was with Kuemper because when a reporter asked about others not playing well tonight, he replied, “We were good tonight,” and essentially wouldn’t allow the question.

“I cannot be disappointed with our game tonight. The one thing that I was unhappy with probably is we passed up some opportunities to shoot the puck when we were ahead (Vanek a gigantic culprit here, Pominville, etc.) and had a chance to attack and be a little more aggressive, but for the most part, we did a lot of things well.”

Yeo was obviously very happy with Zucker’s game after clearly not being ready to return during a tough first game back from the flu last game in Dallas. Tonight, he was a stud.

On his great game, Zucker said, “I don’t care. We need to win. That’s all I care about. It would have been really nice to get that second point.”

Also, bad news, but Marco Scandella was lost in the third period after three shifts because of an undisclosed injury. Yeo said he’d supply an update after Wednesday’s practice. Scandella was struck in the head by a puck in the second period, but Yeo didn't think it was that. I watched his three third-period shifts and he was checked hard into the glass by Freddie Hamilton on his last, but he played on.

Unbelievable, but my gigantic personality profile on Scandella was supposed to run Thursday. It’s been held multiple times because of his suspension, the team’s slump and now this. This morning, I told him it was coming and he jokingly told me that it just needs to run because every time it’s supposed to, “Something happens.”

I am the ultimate jinx.

Anyway, again, please keep the Parises in your thoughts and prayers.

This is, as J.P. Parise calls me, “Michel Rousseau” signing off. Yeah, J.P. refuses to accept that I’m Italian. “You’re a Frenchman,” he’d say. :(

Wild hits "rock bottom" in Dallas, experiencing one of its worst losses in history

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 4, 2015 - 12:05 AM

As bad as the Wild played in losing 11 of 17 games (6-7-4) prior to Friday’s win against Toronto, the Wild was never, ever humiliated.

It lacked the energy and excitement that became its trademark late last season. It made mistakes and gave up too many goals, either because of sloppy defense or a bad goal or two, but for the most part, the losses were of the one-goal variety (yeah, yeah, if you exclude the empty-net goals, which do count, I know).

But for the first time tonight, the Wild left an arena with its tail fully between its legs. Humbled, shamed by the team that used to reside in Minnesota.

I’ve seen the Wild play lousy in this rink 15 or 20 times, but this was just an awful, awful display by a flat, uninspired, tired-looking group tonight, and it was so obvious right from the opening draw that tonight’s outcome could get ugly.

The only question was how ugly because the Stars, who have now won eight of nine, had been off since Wednesday and were here for the killing.

The Wild had to feel fortunate to get out of the first period down 1-0, but instead of regrouping and finding its legs, the Wild emerged flat again in the second, gave up a bad goal to start things off and that seemed to burst the bubble because in a 6:12 span the Stars turned that 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead in an eventual 7-1 destruction.

The six-goal defeat equaled the largest margin of defeat on the road for the Wild in team history. It happened four previous times, the last time in Colorado by also a 7-1 score March 6, 2012.

Here’s a string of quotes for your perusal:

Ryan Carter: “They outskated us, they outcompeted us, they outdesired us, and it hurts.”

“Rock bottom,” he called it, although he said the good thing about rock bottom is you can only go up.

Zach Parise: “It’s not fun. It’s embarrassing. We’ve got a lot of players that individually need to be a lot better. I won’t hide from that, I know that I haven’t played well the last little stretch and that’s the only way we’ll snap out of this. Just goals you can’t give up this time of year. Just can’t do it.”

On tonight’s lack of energy: “That’s kind of been the common theme – no energy for us. I guess looking at the standings, coming into here where they always play well, we looked like we didn’t know what to expect. We were pretty sloppy in a lot of different areas, feels like we were just chasing the puck the whole night.”

On how you respond: “You just don’t have a choice. We have a pretty tough schedule coming up. We can’t dwell on it, but man, we have to learn something from it because that’s bad, that’s ugly.”

Mikko Koivu on the team arriving at its Dallas hotel at 3 a.m.: “No, every team goes through that. We’ve been in a back-to-back situation and everyone has that. That’s not an excuse. Just weren’t even close to good enough obviously. I think the score told you that.”

On what happened: “A lot of things have to happen to get a score like that. Right after the game, I really don’t know and I don’t want to say things I don’t necessarily mean, but like I said, there’s a lot of things wrong in that game. … We got to handle that, got to go through that. I don’t think you can just leave it behind you either. I believe you have to go through why it happened. The effort, it can’t happen again. In this league, if you’re not on top of your game, you have to find a way every single night and we weren’t even close tonight.”

Ryan Suter, who really looked sluggish tonight: “After you get through the first period, you think you’ve got your legs going. We have a bad couple shifts. They got the momentum going and were just unable to get the momentum back. It was just one of those freaking nights.”

On how it went to 1-0 to 5-0 in 6:12: “Once we got out of the first period, we came in here and said, ‘ok, we’ve got our legs now, let’s get her going,’ we had a couple early shifts I thought where we had some pressure in their end, but snap, they got it in and we just could never get it out of our end. It was just bang, bang, bang and we were chasing all night.

People are now calling for the coach’s head, the team’s head. How do you get out of this: “The biggest thing is we have to stick together. The guys in this room have to stick together because it’s us in here, and everyone’s going to be questioning our personnel and our guys, and we have to stick together and know that when we play – and we saw it the other night, when we play, we’re good. We just have to play.

Mike Yeo: “We’re not going to sit around wallowing in this one.”

On how he explains this performance:  “Well, I think the first period you could see we that had no pace to our game. We weren’t able to execute against a team that was pressuring us hard. They played well and we played poorly. That’s how you explain it.”

On Parise saying it seems like a lot of guys on this team need to be better:  “Well, looking at tonight, yeah. Like I said, what are we going to do? We’re ready to talk about how great we were last game and tonight. We can write individual stories every game. I understand that’s what you have to do, but I’m not going to do that. This was a game where we were not good enough. We got a homestand coming up here, so day off [Sunday] I think will be important for group and practice will be important for our group, and we’ll be ready to work.”

On what a loss like this is like from the bench: “It [stinks]. That’s the only way to put it, but that was the message, it was the bed that we made and so we had to lay in it.”

On the defensive play by everyone tonight:  “We weren’t good, yeah. I’m not going to make excuses of why we weren’t good and I’m not going to try to sugarcoat what it was. It wasn’t a good game and like I said, these things happen to teams. You look around they even happen to the best teams, but how you respond and what you do afterwards is what’s more important.”

On this game being an anomaly:  “Well, like I said, I’m not going to get, when we won the last game, I wasn’t ready to plan a parade and we lose tonight in a really bad way, we’ll throw the game out and we’ll get ready for the next one.”

Thomas Vanek: “We just got dominated. Now just forget about it. I don’t know. These ones [stink]. Just completely outplayed. I thought the first 20 we were sleepy and got away 1-0. We talked about it in here to come out with a little more energy which I thought we would. It was quick 2-0 then 3-0 and we were cheating in the offensive side a little bit to get back in the game. You look up and it’s 5-0.”

What needs to change? “I think we’ve seen it. When we come out and play hard from the get-go, we’re in every game. Tonight we just weren’t good. There’s no miracle answer to it. These are the games that you have to forget about really. We lost our share, but most of those losses were late losses and nothing like this. These are the ones – it was a night where we didn’t have it, which is unfortunate because it’s a team that’s chasing us. Now we’re chasing them.

Vanek said no excuse that the Wild got in so late or couldn’t skate this morning, etc: “we were just flat.”

Please read the gamer and notebook (I put the Bickel stuff in there) and the Sunday Insider in Sunday’s paper for the rest of the coverage, but this is as bad as it gets for a team that has been trending this way in my mind for awhile.

Now, was this one game where the legs were mush and they could, as Yeo said, throw it out? Or is this the beginning of even worse things about to embark?

We will start to get an indication on this three-game homestand. But nobody played well for the Wild tonight. Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon minus-4s, Marco Scandella, Kyle Brodziak, Jonas Brodin and Vanek minus-3s, a bunch of minus-2s.

But it was a never-ending pattern of sluggishness, sloppiness, getting hemmed in its own zone and then standing around. The Stars skated circles around the Wild and the fans here in Dallas got a heckuva Saturday night party.

There is no simple fix right now, but GM Chuck Fletcher is going to have to make some sort of honest assessment of what he’s got here because this season is not going to magically repair itself. The vets are struggling, the kids are struggling, the goalies are erratic, the coach is under immense scrutiny again.

Unless something changed in the past week – a 7-1 losses have a way of doing that – Yeo was in no danger of losing his job. But this team – players, coaches, management – is up against it bigtime right now. The Wild’s digging itself a hole and tonight was a humbling experience for all of them to be a part of.

OK, that's it for now. I have an absurdly early flight to catch. I haven't filtered through my Twitter mentions yet. That'll either help put me to sleep or make my heart explode.

Talk Sunday if there’s news. If not, Monday’s paper, I think there will be a story you’ll want to read.

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