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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

No more excuses: Wild healthy, looking to rebound after tense practice

Coach Mike Yeo, who has blasted the team in each of the past three postgame press conferences, huddled the team to start practice today and basically said the same stuff, saying if they're not building toward the playoffs, this is all one big waste of time.

So imagine his words in the last few press conference, only in a louder tone for about a minute, with many four letter words starting with F sprinkled in.

At one point, he pulled the team around him and said since they spend all night in the defensive zone anyway, they might as well be good at it and started defensive-zone drills afterward.

It definitely set the tone for practice.

Asked what the message was in practice, Yeo said, "It’s just not good enough. It was not designed to be a fun practice. It’s about looking in the mirror, and we’re not good enough right now, and it’s about some harsh reality, and that’s not fun. It’s not fun to hear, it’s not fun to accept, but winners respond. And for us, wins, losses, winning the game tomorrow, obviously that’s our goal, but the bigger goal more than anything else is about building your game. You build a game that you play consistently, that’ll deliver the results. And you build a game consistently that will give you the habits that when you get into the playoffs, when the heat’s on and you’re not able to think, that you’ll be responding and performing the right way."

Players felt they came to work today in the right mind frame, so it was definitely an interesting way for things to start off.

"Now we’re looking for leadership," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We need leaders. We need guys, coaching staff, players, we need people that are going to lead. It does no good to pout and get [ticked] off at each other. You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to coach and be a leader when things are going good."

Said Zach Parise on Yeo's pre-practice message about building for the playoffs and don't mope, etc, "You guys saw it. I don’t know. To me, I came to the rink with a good attitude and ready to work on some stuff and excited to practice. I don’t think any of the players did either, I don’t think any of the players came here with the attitude to pout around or mope around. We were ready to work and ready to practice."

In practice today, the coaches reunited left-shot defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin for the first time this season and Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon. Those have been the pairs the last few seasons. Personally, I think they're reunited no only because the team is trying to rediscover its quality defensive play, but because Matt Dumba continues to struggle bigtime.

Suter wasn't thrilled by being detached from Spurgeon. This is no swipe at Brodin because Suter respects him as a player, but Suter's had a solid start to this season, especially offensively, and he thinks playing with a right-shot like Spurgeon gives him more options in all three zones.

On skating with Brodin, Suter said, "Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there. He decided to change things up. I don’t know what they’re thinking."

On how it changes things, "It’s different. Like I've said, I need to play with a right-handed defenseman to give me more options, neutral zone, offensively and even coming out of D zone. It’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.

"I don’t if that was just for practice today or what it is. They didn’t say anything."

Asked if he's OK with the move, Suter said, "No. We’ll talk about it. We’ll figure it out. Maybe for certain points you have to do this to play against certain guys and situations. I know Scandy’s coming back, so I don’t think it’s going to be an end a result. He’s the coach."

Suter did make very clear when the cameras were off that he will do whatever it takes to win, and if the coaches think this is the best way to go, he has no problem with it.

Yeo said, "That’s our job as coaches is to decide what’s best for the group, and it’s also our job to surround players and give them the best chance to succeed. We take all that into consideration (Suter wanting to play with Spurgeon) for sure, but ultimately we have to decide on what’s going to help us win. That’s first and foremost. Part of it is making sure players are in the right mindframe. Our group of defensemen is as good as any group in the NHL, so we should be able to put different guys on the ice with whoever and we should be able to be successful as long as we’re all on the same page."

Asked how much this has to do with Dumba, Yeo said, "I’m anxious to see, ... I thought he responded to a real tough game against Winnipeg real well. He had one turnover, but I don’t think the puck support was there for him so I don’t completely fault him on that, but overall I thought it was a little bit more of a game I’d like to see from him consistently. That’s what I’m looking for. We’re not asking for perfection from anybody right now. There are mistakes that happen through the course of the game, but it’s pretty clear to see when we have the focus toward playing the game a certain way, then you’ve certainly got that feeling."

On the slump, Suter said, "I think we better get it moving now or it’s going to be a short season. We just all got to get on the same page. We all want to win. We just have to go about it the right way. … We better start figuring it out because it takes a toll on you when you do have these slumps like this.

"It does no good to talk about the last games and oh we’re moping around and we’re having [crummy] practices. You come out and you work hard and you show up for work and you play and you get better. That’s how you get out of things like this."

The Wild's healthy for the first time in weeks.

Scandella practiced today, as did Ryan Carter. Both are expected to play against Chicago.

Christian Folin was recalled from Iowa. Jordan Schroeder cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.

On the Wild being healthy, Yeo said, "That’s good. It’s a nice thing to have. It’ll create a little bit more stability with the group and the guys you are going out with, but I think as much as anything else, it’s that internal competition. Now we have a healthy group to push each other here.

"There’s a level of comfort that creeps in when you don’t have somebody pushing you and challenging you, so if youre not doing the right things, we’re a little bit limited as far as cutting somebody’s ice time down or whatever the case is. On the flip side, if you’re going to have an off night, you don’t have somebody else to pick you up or to relieve some of that pressure. That’s part of it. but we have a healthy group now, so we should be good to go.

The Hawks are back from their annual Circus trip. They went 3-1-2. Patrick Kane, the league's leading scorer, is riding a 19-game point streak (11 goals, 31 points), the longest in history by a U.S. born player and the longest in the NHL since Sidney Crosby racked up 50 points in 25 straight games in 2010.

More Parise:

"We can’t do much about what happened against Dallas. The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and get better as a team. You’ve got to start with the game against Chicago against a team we should be excited to play against and a team that has been playing really well. That should be what we’re thinking about, not about Dallas. We should learn from mistakes and try to improve on a daily basis. That’s our approach."

Biggest issue? "It’s tough to pinpoint. Our power play hasn’t been very good. It’s varied from game to game. Like I said before, I’ve only been back for two games. It’s easy to criticize from up top and that’s not fair. I thought we played a pretty decent game against Dallas minus the third period. We didn’t give them a lot. And they’re a good team, they’re going to get scoring chances, they’re going to make plays. I thought the game before that, we weren’t very good in the neutral zone and didn’t handle the puck very well. that was the difference. So it has been a different story each game. I don’t know about one consistent glaring thing. I think we’re turning the puck over a lot. That’s hurting us. But we’ve got to watch the video and see our mistakes.

Is everybody buying in? "Again, it’s hard to pinpoint because we haven’t seen one consistent thing that we’re not doing right. It’s hard for me to say that we need to do this a lot better when one game it’s one thing, another game, another thing. But I wouldn’t question the amount that these guys want to play hard and want to win and buy in. I would never question that. We have a hard working group of players that are hungry to learn and hungry to get better. We just have to start playing better.

On getting out of this in past years: "I’ve always said good or bad that the past doesn’t really impact today. I don’t think we want to sit here and say to ourselves, we can go 30-2 after Christmas. No. 1 that’s not realistic and I don’t think we want to put ourselves in that position again. You look at the standings, we’ve had a tough last stretch, but we’re still right in the thick of it. We just have to start playing better and that’s it."

Also ...

If you didn't read my article in today's paper on Mike Yeo fearing the team's annual swoon, here is the link.

Here is also a chart that documents the three out of three winter swoons in his tenure.

If you want to hear something very funny, Blackhawks correspondent Brian Hedger tweeted the other night that 11 Twitter followers unfollowed him because he allegedly jinxed the Hawks into blowing a lead and losing in Los Angeles.

I joked back to him on Twitter to not worry, that after the Wild collapsed in the third and lost to Dallas, I blocked 11 followers and he can have them (I was kidding, it was actually 2). Apparently that Twitter back and forth between Brian and I inspired a Wild fan named Kari to make a funny parody of Adele's Hello.

She describes it as, "a little story from the perspective of someone you blocked on Twitter and how they are struggling to cope."

I do admit, I probably have too quick of a block trigger finger, but life's too short to be stressed by haters and anonymous Twitter trolls. Just be glad I don't have the ability to block some of the blog commenters. Mgala would have been banished years ago (kidding Larry).

Here is that little ditty.

#onemorechance is my new favorite hashtag.

On Thursday is the first of four Star Tribune Fans Night Out events at the St. Paul RiverCentre before Wild games. The first one features myself and former Bloomington Jefferson, St. Cloud State and longtime NHLer Mark Parrish and myself. If you know Parrish, this is bound to be very funny.

If you want information for how to attend, here is the link. The package includes admission to the Chalk Talk, a lower level ticket for the Wild-Maple Leafs game and more. I promise you, I don't make one penny from any of this, by the way (I only add that caveat because a Wild fan asked me the other day and I don't want folks thinking I do).

On Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, Jim Souhan and I will tape another Russo-Souhan Show for

Come on by before the game against the Avalanche, ask questions and listen.

On Tuesday, I will be on KFAN at 9:15 a.m.

Postgame: Yeo says, 'Same story. Here we are again'

Update: The Wild placed Jordan Schroeder on waivers Sunday. He'll be assigned to Iowa on Monday if he clears. He scored one goal and had 11 shots in 11 games.

When the coach himself walks into his postgame press conference and unsolicited alludes to the fact that the Wild could be in the beginning stages of another winter swoon, it’s safe to say this will be the story line for a few days or at a minimum until the Wild figures out a way to break out of this skid.

“It’s the same story. Here we are again,” coach Mike Yeo said.

Again, Yeo volunteered that to start his presser. He wasn’t responding to a reporter’s question. I only point this out so fans or players don’t think this is a media driven story line. This is Yeo’s fifth year as the Wild coach. In only three of those years were there late Novembers and Decembers because the 2012-13 lockout wiped out November and December that season.

So in those three previous three seasons (2009-10, 2013-14 and 2014-15), the Wild fell apart starting in either late November or December.

Yeo said tonight, “It’s the same story. Here we go again.”

After tonight’s third-period collapse and 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas, the Wild is 1-4-2 in its past seven now and 0-2-1 in the final three games of a four-game homestand that if you recall started so well with a shutout over Nashville.

With the Wild up 3-0 on goals by Thomas Vanek, Charlie Coyle, and yes, Jason Pominville for the first time in 22 games, Alex Goligoski got it started early in the period right after the Wild killed off a Ryan Suter cross-checking penalty. The Wild then got a golden opportunity to regain its three-goal lead or at least reestablish momentum, and Mikael Granlund coughed up the puck twice, the final one resulting in a Jamie Benn shorthanded dagger. There’s a reason he leads the NHL with 18 goals.

Finally, with 5:43 left, John Klingberg, who leads all NHL D in scoring, slid left and walked the blue line like all gifted offensive defenseman can do. He then wristed a seeing-eye puck through traffic for the tying goal. In OT, Benn set up Tyler Seguin’s winner with 1:03 left after Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 40 of 44 shots, stopped Benn on a 2-on-1 and Patrick Sharp hit iron after Granlund first refused to shoot point-blank, then turned the puck over.

The Wild’s best OT scoring chance came on a Suter shot. Jason Zucker’s rebound stab somehow didn’t get by Antti Niemi and then Mikko Koivu missed the net.

The Wild lost at home when leading by three goals in the third for the first time since Jan. 31, 2012 vs. Nashville (lost 5-4 in regulation). The last time the Wild allowed three third-period goals in a loss/OT/shootout loss at home was Dec. 29, 2013, vs. the Islanders.

Those two previous notes are according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

This was the Wild’s first blown three-goal lead at home for a loss since March 11, 2014 (vs. Edmonton, up 3-0 in the first, lost in a shootout, 4-3). And I’m sure you remember, this is the first blown three-goal lead for a loss overall since Oct. 27, 2014, at the Rangers (up 3-0 in the third, lost 5-4).

If you thought Yeo ripped into the team after Friday’s loss to Winnipeg, that was nothing compared tonight.

I’ll do a follow for Monday’s paper with a lot of the stuff you’re going to read now because the Wild has Sunday off, but Yeo opened his presser my just saying we “might as well just take some of my quotes from last year at this time and use those.”

When I asked which quotes, Yeo said, “Not very happy probably. It’s the same story. Here we are again.”

“Boy, what a great 21 minutes and [11] seconds we played. That’s great,” he said, sarcastically, next. “Too bad the game didn’t end there. It doesn’t.”

So how does a team get a 3-0 lead on a goal by Pominville that should have lifted the team even further and then give up 19 second-period shots, have their bacon saved by Kuemper stopping all of them and then still collapse in the third?

“Well first off, losing battles,” Yeo said. “You look at how many one-on-one battles were lost all over the ice. They had the puck an awful lot more than we did. In order to have the puck, you have to do certain things in position. But there’s 50-50 pucks that they came up with. No. 2 we scored three goals and were far more concerned about getting the fourth and who’s going to get it and, ‘I want my goal,’ than we were about making sure we don’t give up the next one.”

On the Granlund power-play turnovers that changed everything, Yeo said, “It was coming. It was coming right from the second period. Tried to talk about it in between periods, but not quite, … you know.”

On the fact that the December swoon will now be a story line, Yeo interrupted and said, “It should be. How do we stop it? You win hockey games. You make plays for 60 minutes that win hockey games. They were more determined to play their game than we were. It was more important and they stayed with it, so credit for them. Great job. That’s why they’re in first place, that’s why we’re not. We talk about, we’re a good team and everything, the teams at the end of the year, they’re not the most talented teams, they’re the teams that play their game and buy in and do the things the right way night after night after night regardless of who you’re playing against, where you’re playing, what the circumstances are, and for whatever reason, we get to this time of the year, and whether we think we’re good enough, I don’t know. I’m not sure why and we haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it. But we’ll see. We’re either going to decide if we’re going to be a good team or a decent team. I think we’re all a little bit tired of being a decent team, but the only way to do that is to be better in our team game than the other team.”

Like I said, please don’t be upset when you read that stuff again in Monday’s paper. I wasn’t able to squeeze all that into Sunday’s and had to save some stuff.

Suter said, “It’s disappointing. We played well the first two periods and then we sat back, and that’s what happens when you sit back against a team like that. You knew they were going to come. You knew they were going to have a push. And they did.”

Asked why they tend to sit back, Suter said it’s just a natural, maybe unconscious thing in hockey: “You get up and you want to just defend. You don’t think about playing offense and making them defend. Every hockey team that gets up, that’s the same situation. We have to learn from it. It’s disappointing, but it does no good to sit here and dwell on it.”
With Justin Fontaine back tonight for the first time in 12 games, the Vanek-Coyle-Fontaine was reunited and they were great early.

Vanek scored his team-leading 10th goal. To put that in perspective, on Nov. 28 last season in the Wild’s 22nd game as well, Vanek scored his second goal. He didn’t reach 10 last season until Feb. 1.

One shift after Vanek scored on a seeing-eye knuckler from the left circle through Fontaine and Jonas Brodin screens, Vanek made an unbelievable pass to spring Fontaine and Coyle for a 2-on-1.

The line was just getting warmed up. Coyle made it 2-0 after Fontaine picked off Valeri Nichushkin’s risky drop pass in the defensive zone. Fontaine then dived to create a 2-on-1 for Vanek and Coyle.

With only defenseman Patrick Nemeth back, Vanek faked a shot on Antti Niemi and crossed a perfect feed to Coyle, who buried his sixth goal.

“We played good for the most part the first 40 minutes,” Vanek said. “That’s a good team over there, and there’s a reason they have 17, 18 wins. They kept coming and ultimately I think our power play, instead of gaining momentum when we’re up two goals, lost it for us.”

Vanek said the room was “pretty quiet” after. There’s not much you can say. Most of the guys have been around and know that’s not good enough, not acceptable.”
Early in the second, after the Wild killed off a power play by the team that owns the West’s most prolific one, Chris Porter forced Seguin into a turnover. Granlund fed Pominville along the right wall at the blue line.

Pominville skated to the top of the right circle and put every ounce of power he had into a shot that blew over top of Niemi. Pominville, who has scored 238 career goals and two years ago led the Wild with 30, didn’t even smile but got a very cool congratulations from Granlund.

The goal came one game after Yeo played Pominville 12 minutes, 11 seconds, to try to cajole him out of monster slump. It was the lowest ice time Pominville has logged in four seasons with the Wild (excluding injury.

Pominville said after the game it was a huge relief and I’ll try to put more from Pominville on the goal in Monday’s paper. Parise kiddingly motioned to Pominville if he should get the puck as a keepsake. Parise said he was just trying to make light of it, and Pominville said even in practices guys have been making similar jokes when he scores. He said it was a cool feeling to see how happy his teammates were doing his fly-by.

Unfortunately, it all went for naught.

Pominville mostly felt bad for Kuemper, saying the team wasted his effort.

Kuemper deserved better tonight. He faced 44 shots, stopped all 19 in the second, only faced seven in the first when the Wild did what Yeo told them to do and protected him early and played with purpose early. Unfortunately for the Wild, it didn’t protect him or play with purpose late.

“I think we got away a little bit from what was making us successful in the first,” Kuemper said. “We were on the cycle, getting pucks deep and controlling a lot of possession, and we got away from that a bit once we got up and I think they kind of sensed that and took advantage of it.
“It’s really frustrating. It was there for us and obviously one point is not what you should be coming away from there.”

Not much more I can say on this one. It’s after midnight and I should get out of this empty press box.

But buckle up, folks. As player after player said after this game as you’ll read in Monday’s paper, we’ll see what these guys are made of now. They don’t want to once again put itself in position where it needs a miracle second half like the past two seasons to save its behinds and make the playoffs.

The whole objective this season was not to do this yet again. Now, as Yeo said, “Same story. Here we are again.”

The calendar's about to turn to December, and the Wild's one point up on 9th-place Vancouver.

After the game, Gustav Olofsson and Kurtis Gabriel were reassigned. Marco Scandella is expected to return Tuesday in Chicago. If not, it’ll likely recall Olofsson again. Also, Jordan Schroeder ended up playing tonight because Ryan Carter had what the team called an “upper lower-body injury,” so likely groin or hip or something.

He did take part in warmups, so perhaps it’s not too serious.

Talk to you Monday unless there’s news Sunday.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Clemson at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on ESPN2, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Chicago

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Orlando at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Duke

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Toronto at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    7:07 pm

  • South Dakota at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    3:07 pm

  • Colorado at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on ESPNEWS, 1500-AM

  • Portland at Timberwolves

    7:05 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Seattle at Vikings

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Towson at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • L.A. Clippers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Colorado

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

Poll: How sure are you the Vikings will make the playoffs?

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Today's Scoreboard

  • Baltimore



    - 3rd, 10:40



  • Carolina

    NY Rangers


    - F



  • Colorado

    NY Islanders


    - F



  • Edmonton



    - F



  • Vancouver



    - 1st, 11:40



  • Boston



    - F



  • Houston



    - F



  • Oklahoma City



    - 4th, 0:26



  • Denver



    - F



  • San Antonio



    - F



  • Golden State



    - H



  • Dallas



    - 1st, 5:45



  • Portland

    LA Clippers

    9:30 PM

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