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Russo's Rants

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

Postgame: Tired-looking Wild lack energy, fight in loss to Flyers

No energy, no battle, no semblance of quality play Thursday night in a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The L.A. Kings ended up beating the Winnipeg Jets, so the Wild's next opportunity to clinch a fifth consecutive playoff berth is Saturday. Two points, or two lost points by the Kings gets it done.

The Flyers deserve credit. They defended hard and played well, but the Wild wouldn’t have been able to fight through a wet paper bag.

No other way to say it: This was an absolutely troubling defeat during a very troubling month.

Just a huge letdown from Tuesday’s win over San Jose to fall for the ninth time in 12 games this month and the eighth time in the past 10 games.

The Wild looked like a very tired team, and whether you accept that as an excuse or not when there are many good teams in this league playing every other night not looking tired and finding ways to win, that’s reality.

The Wild looks fatigued, and Boudreau is admittedly uncertain as to how to get the Wild out of its siesta.

It’s not like he’s some magical sorcerer or something.

One issue is the Wild has chased games all month, so Boudreau keeps shortening his bench, which overextends players. Tonight, he cut it down to nine forwards and five D in the third period.

The Wild couldn’t get to the middle of the ice in the offensive zone, was just downright loose in the neutral zone and sloppy in the defensive zone. Passing was atrocious, offensive execution continued to be poor, and like I said, there was no battle to get to the net.

Down 2-1 in the third, the Wild managed TWO shots in the first 15:03 and FOUR for the entire period against one of the worst goalies in the NHL this season and one of the worst defensive teams.

The Wild lost 31 of 52 faceoffs and just bad following Zach Parise opening the scoring 2:07 into the game.

Boudreau said, “They checked very well. They were faster than us tonight, and they were on top of us at every move. We looked very tired. And in compete, when it’s one-on-one battles and you’re not winning them, they’re getting the puck and they’re controlling it. I don’t have an answer for you.”

Boudreau has mentioned a handful of times this month how tired the Wild, worried all season about this 20-game in 35-day stretch, look.

How do they get it back?

“There is no magical elixir,” Boudreau said. “You’d like to practice, but I don’t know, and don’t see … if fatigue is the answer, if they are tired, if they think that they’re in that area where they can’t go up and they can’t go down [the ice], it’s a tough, tough go at that point here. You’ve got to find it from your inner self. The competitive juices got to come from inside. Whether you’re playing this or you’re playing the soccer [warmup] that they play [before the game], you’ve got to will it, I guess, when you’re in this situation.”

Boudreau, by the way, for the first time this season split Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. Told recently how good longtime partners Spurgeon and Marco Scandella used to be, Boudreau tried them together and Suter with Matt Dumba.

“We are trying to get a Top 4 instead of sometimes using Suter and Spurgeon for 30 minutes and wearing them down. They probably played the same amount tonight. You figure, I've been told that Scandy and Spurge played very well together a couple years ago and Dumba's game is picking up, and when Spurge was out, he and Sutes were playing pretty good. So I thought let's give it a crack again and see if we can't get that Top 4.”

What’s so troubling about the Wild right now is almost everybody’s game has tailed off, from the goalie out.

Spurgeon and Mikael Granlund were about the only two that had constant energy and vigor tonight. Granlund could have had eight assists if his linemates could finish tonight.

Some examples of slumps: Mikko Koivu has two goals in his past 22 games. Nino Niederreiter had one of his toughest games of the year tonight and has one goal in the past 18 games and none since Feb. 27. Jason Zucker has one goal in the past 11 games.

On the slumps, Boudreau said, “If I had answers I'd try to cure it. I think we can -- they've just got to -- I don't know. They've got to will it. They've got to find a way. They can't get down when things don't go good. That's pretty well the bottom line. When things aren't going well it's pretty easy to get depressed. When things are going great, it takes a long time to wear you down. When things aren't going good, every little thing wears you down a little bit more.”

On his concern level now with the playoffs looming, Boudreau said, “I'm concerned because I'm used to them having jump and energy and for me to sit here and say, 'Ah. Everything's good,' when we've lost six out of seven, eight out of 10, it's not as good as we'd like it. That's for sure. I'm confident that this team is going to be ready when that time comes. But at the same time, we'd like to play every game like we think they're capable of playing.”

Other cut and paste quotes:

Staal: “It just seemed like everything we were chasing after, we were a half step behind, both offensively and defensively a lot of the night. When you’re like that, you’re playing without the puck and chasing it a lot. Just didn’t have enough.”

Staal said, “They battled, they competed and I think for us, we had to fight a little harder, a little better to get in there and get pucks back. It seemed like when we had one guy in there, we didn’t have a second and when we did get close to getting the puck, for whatever reason, it was rolling away on us or we weren’t executing the play after we had the puck. Just weren’t as crisp as we normally are.”

Staal on the lack of push in the third period: “That’s not good enough, obviously, we’re aware of that. We need to be better. We expect a push to come back and we need more. It just seemed like we didn’t have enough to generate enough in the o-zone to create those chances and shots. It needs to be better, two shots isn’t good enough, you’re not gonna come back very many times if you generate that much.”

Ryan Suter said, “We came out, we had a good start, we got that first goal and I think we just sat back. We thought it was going to be easy. We just quit moving our feet and it caught up with us. … I thought in the neutral zone we had a tough time getting through. We were turning a lot of pucks over. But I just don’t think we were skating that well today.
Suter on not being able to build after the Sharks win: “It’s frustrating. We had a good game on Tuesday, we came out and had good jump, and then tonight we were kind of flat.”

Zach Parise on the third period: “It felt like we were pretty flat for a lot of the game. But they played well. They played hard. They checked us all over the ice – we didn’t have a lot of room. But our passing was off. We had guys open and we just missed them for no reason. A lot of one-and-dones in the offensive zone. They outplayed us, I thought.”
Parise on dying as a team after his goal: “I thought a lot of it had to do with how hard they worked and how hard they played. Any time there was a loose puck it felt like they jumped on it quicker than us. Any time there was a 50/50 puck they came out with it, it felt like, the majority of the time. Just, they got it, flipped out and chased us down. It wasn’t our best game.”
On being outworked: “You’d like to think that in the spot that we are right now, we’d like to be the team and we should be the team that’s out competing. We’re going to play some teams that – I’m not saying they’re out of the playoffs, but it’s hard for them to make the playoffs, I think. We’re going to play some other teams like that, and really we can’t get outworked by them. They’re going to come, they’re going to play loose, they’re going to work and if you don’t show up to play, it’s going to be games like that for us. So we’ve got to compete a lot harder than we did.”

Dubnyk on not building after the Sharks win: “Yeah, we need to… this is a tough time of year. It’s tough to win games and I think if you look at that game [against Philadelphia], we need to do a better job of managing the game. There’s two minutes left in the start and end of periods; too many times, I think, this year and recently, we give up a goal in the last two minutes of a period. At this time of year, you’ve got a 1-nothing lead in your home building, it should be treated like it’s the end of the game and you should go out there and they should get absolutely nothing unless they’re working it around the end and throwing pucks at the net. But as far as, I think, if we’re winning 1-nothing or by a goal at the end of a game, I don’t think that play develops or happens. We need to start treating it that way. And then same thing, we come out to start the second period, both very avoidable plays. And this time of year, it’s small things like that that end up being the difference in games.”

Koivu: “We didn't get any traffic, any rebounds, anything pretty much the whole game. That's where you score goals and we're outside right now. Every team’s defending well. You need to find a way. I don’t care who you play or how they play, as individuals, we’d got to find a way t get puck through, get in front of them and get dirty one.”

By the way, Nick Schultz may be retiring after the season, so it was awesome to see him play maybe one final game in this rink. He played real well.

Afterward, he said, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be playing, so it’s nice to get a chance to be in the lineup tonight and get a big win here. It’s a great building, fun place to play. The guys played hard and it was a nice win for our team.”

That’s it for me. I’m taking Friday to work on my Sunday package. Kent Youngblood is covering practice.

Let’s see if the sun comes up in the morning, as Boudreau likes to say.

Kunin headed to AHL Wild at opportune time: 'I want to be a winner wherever I go'

Luke Kunin has had the special touch on most every international team he has ever played on. Now a former University of Wisconsin Badger, Kunin hopes to help push the Iowa Wild into the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time.

Kunin, drafted 15th overall last June by the Wild, will make his Iowa debut Friday night in Cleveland after he signed an amateur tryout Thursday. That followed agreeing to terms with Minnesota on a three-year, $2.775 million contract, plus performance bonuses (his 'A' bonuses are representative with a mid-first-round pick of his pedigree), that’ll kick in next season.

He’ll sign officially Friday.

Iowa, which has 12 regular-season games left including two in a row in Cleveland, ranks fifth in the Central Division with a .531 points percentage. The top-four in each division make the playoffs, and Charlotte is fourth at .540 and Cleveland sixth at .523.

So Kunin’s arrival comes at a good time.

“I want to be a winner wherever I go,” Kunin said by phone a few hours before flying to Cleveland with a connection in Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon. “And right now, that’s Iowa. I want to do whatever can, just work hard and just help any way I can. I’m just looking forward to getting down there and playing a game with those guys.”

Kunin, who has played center mostly for USA Hockey, played wing down the stretch for the Badgers and will initially start at right wing on a line with Ryan Carter and Pat Cannone with Iowa, said coach Derek Lalonde. He may eventually get a look at center.

Kunin, 19, the first sophomore to captain the Badgers in 41 years, led the team with 22 goals and 38 points in 35 games one year after leading them with 19 goals.

The 2016 Wild first-round pick captained the United States to gold at the most recent world junior championships.

During his career, Kunin has represented Team USA at seven international tournaments - winning the championship six times and finishing second once. He captained the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, leading the team and ranking T-3rd in the tournament with six goals in seven games.

“A lot of people don’t realize, his freshman year at Wisconsin, he really should have been a high school senior,” agent Pete Rutili, an Augsburg College grad, said. “He’s got three world championships before he even turned 20 – under 17, under-18 and under-20. Pretty impressive young guy.”

Kunin said talk of signing immediately with Minnesota was brief. The Wild didn’t want to burn the first year of his contract, nor thrust him right from college hockey into an NHL playoff run.

“After talking with [GM Chuck Fletcher], he said that’s just the way they do it,” Kunin said. “Everyone in Minnesota has played in the American League at some point, and it’ll be a good step for me to take. We’re definitely on the same page.”

After losing in double overtime of the Big Ten championship to Penn State, Kunin went to St. Louis with a couple teammates to root on the Badgers’ women’s team, which includes his girlfriend, Wayzata’s Sophia Shaver, in the Frozen Four.

After the tournament, Kunin stayed in his hometown to decompress from the season and talk to his parents about the decision he had to make. He stayed in contract with Badgers coaches Tony and Don Granato and Mark Osiecki. He wanted to gauge their advice.

“It’s never easy,” Kunin said. “I loved Wisconsin, my teammates, but I knew it was time and I was ready to make the jump to pro hockey.”

Added Rutili, “The American League is second-best league in the world, and he’s getting real game experience. That’s what he’s looking for. He’s looking to get exposure, get the experience, get rolling and then he has every intention going into training camp with an eye of making the Wild next year.”

That’s why Kunin thinks these next 12 games and hopefully beyond will be valuable.

“I think it’ll be good to learn the system and how they want us to play,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to playing the pro game and adjusting and seeing what it’s like and continuing to get better every day.”

Miami University junior defenseman Louis Belpedio, a third-round pick in 2014, is also mulling over whether it’s time to turn pro, said Rutili, who also advises Belpedio.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Baltimore at Twins (spring training)

    6:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at L.A. Lakers

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at New England

    1 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Vancouver at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey vs. Notre Dame

    2:30 pm on ESPNU, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Baltimore (spring training)

    5:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Portland

    9 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Detroit

    11:30 am on Ch. 11, 100.3-FM

  • Boston at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Pittsburgh (spring training)

    5:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN

  • Timberwolves at Indiana

    6 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Tampa Bay (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • L.A. Lakers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Ottawa at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

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    7:10 PM

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