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

Floundering Wild will look to beat the often-unbeatable Capitals

Wild and Washington Capitals tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

I’ve spent the past couple days gathering yarn on the Caps and have ton a great stuff you’ll be reading the next few weeks. As I did during the 2012 lockout covering the Gophers, I just put the recorder next to Nate Schmidt, hit the on button and let him talk in a gazillion different directions.

Barry Trotz, as usual, and Alex Ovechkin were good, too, so get ready to read some Caps stuff.

Devan Dubnyk vs. Braden Holtby, on pace to break Martin Brodeur’s single-season win total of 48, tonight.

Holtby has one regulation loss in his past 31 games.

“It’s crazy to watch,” Dubnyk said. “He’s been a phenomenal goalie for years now, but nobody expects anybody to do what he’s doing right now. There’s a reason certain records are set the way they are because they don’t happen very often. I’m happy that he’s in the East and we’ll keep it that way. It’s always fun to see guys performing and setting the bar at the level he is.”

Dubnyk is 2-8-2 since Jan. 3. He went back to his old set of pads that he wore most of this season.

He said it wasn’t superstition or trying something different.

“We had a little bit of a malfunction yesterday, so I just went back to the old ones. The old ones weren’t that beat up,” he said. “Some stuff started breaking down on them and wasn’t really lining up properly for me, so I just felt that over the last couple days and it was an easy decision.”

Dubnyk didn’t have a very good morning skate, so maybe that’ll mean a 1-0 win tonight. I kid about that because Ilya Bryzgalov used to have the world’s worst morning skates and next thing you know, he’d be on the winning end of a shutout that night.

Statistically, Dubnyk’s numbers have been good during the Wild’s long losing skid, but the last few games, you could see cracks in the armor. Coach Mike Yeo said the other day you could see the losses were getting to Dubnyk and starting to affect his play, and Dubnyk concurred this morning.

“You do everything you can to not let it happen, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had a stretch like this before. And everybody knows I’ve had a bad stretch before,” said Dubnyk.

Yeah, he was an Oiler. But I think he was talking about the stretch that landed him in the minors with Montreal.

“And it’s strange,” Dubnyk continued. “It’s strange because I feel good about my game. The last three obviously more goals have gone in, but if you look before that …,  It becomes more difficult. You want to do more. You come into each game and feel like you need to be doing more. Funny thing about being a goalie is it’s a reactionary position. It’s a rare position in sports that’s 100 percent reactionary and you can only do what is given to you and what comes at you, so it’s not a good mindset to approach a game to be trying to do something. You have to stick to what you know works. Like all of us, eventually we’re going to get out of this thing.”

Jared Spurgeon won’t play tonight, meaning the Wild’s against without Jonas Brodin and Spurgeon against an explosive team.

“He’s not ready,” Yeo said. “Shooting the puck OK, but not ready to go in the corners and battle against a team that battles hard.”

Asked if he could play Saturday afternoon against Boston, Yeo said, “We’ll have to see how he feels tomorrow.”

Ryan Suter and Zach Parise didn’t skate this morning. Actually, Parise was first on, but then left when the skate began.

Yeo said the team is going back to what it did during last year’s torrid run where when it had games every second day, skating will be based on at least getting one skate in between those.

Yeo said Suter and Parise felt stronger last year skating the day before and staying off in the morning of games.

Wild’s 5-on-5 play the past two games should have been good enough to get a win at least. It’s losing because its penalty kill has been bad. Four goals against the past two games. Yeo said they better stay out of the box against the league’s best power play tonight.

Yeo said faceoffs has been a big factor on the recent PKs. They’ve given the opposition a lot of possession, and when they do clear, easy entries and haven’t recognized good pressure opportunities.

On Friday at 1:45 p.m., I will be hosting live chat on startribune.com/wild, so please join in and don’t stress me out too much.

Also, Saturday at 10 a.m. at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub, I will be flying solo during the Russo-Souhan Show during a special brunch show. Please come down and take part in the podcast. Loyal listener and participant, @Severanceguy on Twitter, is donating four alumni game tickets as a giveaway for the show, so come down for a chance to win em.

With NHL's best team coming to town, heat is on Yeo

The Wild has lost 14 of 17 games in 2016 (3-10-4), 11 of the past 12 games (1-9-2), six in a row overall since Jan. 21 (0-4-2) and six straight at home since Dec. 28 (0-3-3).

“To get off the schneid,” as Mike Yeo said this morning, the Wild will have to beat the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

The Caps: The No. 1 team in the NHL which is one win from 40 and with 84 points. The team that leads the NHL with 3.29 goals per game, ranks second with 2.25 goals allowed per game, has the NHL’s best power play at 24.4 percent and fourth-best penalty kill at 84 percent. The team with a league-best plus-56 goal differential.

The team with Alex Ovechkin, who is second in the NHL with 31 goals, second with 12 power-play goals and tied for fifth with a plus-22. The team with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is fifth with 54 points, third with 39 assists and third with a plus-24. The team with Nicklas Backstrom, the one who plays, not the goalie who sits, who is tied for fifth with 20 power-play points.

The team with goalie Braden Holtby, who has ONE regulation loss in the past 31 games and a 34-5-3 record with a 2.08 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

The team with T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen and the bubbly Nate Schmidt. #threeofus.

To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “Good luck with all that!”

Now that I lowered your expectations to the nth degree, watch the Wild win Thursday night. Maybe Ovechkin will take his teammates out on the town tonight.

The Wild had an optional practice today. Coach Mike Yeo didn’t go on the ice, nor did forwards Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle. We know Koivu is banged up because he left practice a few days ago, and we can assume the same for the other two.

Yeo said all the players are good to go against the Caps.

Also, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who said he got hurt early in the Blues game Saturday and it got progressively worse until he could go no more early in the second, practiced today. He said it’s up to the coaches whether he plays, but he thinks he’s good to return after missing Tuesday’s game against Dallas.

If he plays, one of the D would come out. Yeo indicated the Wild probably wouldn’t bring back Tyler Graovac right now because he liked the line construction in the Stars game, especially Erik Haula centering Thomas Vanek and Justin Fontaine.

Speaking of Vanek, the Wild’s 1-10 in overtime and shootouts and last night’s loss came after Vanek’s mistake.

Vanek had a huge first period, but he also made a series of mistakes in overtime starting with disregarding a line change well before his decision not to just get the puck deep and go for a change before his turnover led to a loss.

Yeo said there will be personnel changes the next time the Wild gets to overtime and “hopefully we get there a whole bunch more times and you guys get to see.”

I asked him if he regretted using Vanek,. Yeo said, “I’m not going to talk about that. Going forward, I’ve got some different ideas that we have that we’ll try and we’ll continue to do that. The one thing I’ll say is we didn’t try him a whole lot early in the year and we started to lose some games. Obviously with his skills, you think 3-on-3 is a game of skill, so that’s why we gave him an opportunity there.”

Fair enough. I’d almost guarantee one of those personnel moves will be no longer using Vanek in 3-on-3.

Yeo is under the gun right now.

I’m hearing from sources that his job is not as secure as GM Chuck Fletcher led to believe Saturday in St. Louis.

Yeo knows the pressure is on. He has met with Fletcher a lot lately.

“That’s the life of a coach in the NHL,” Yeo said. “I’ve got no problem with that. I deal with that just fine.”

He said, “I’m not going to sit around and say, ‘Poor me.’ This is not about me, this is about us, all of us together and I’ve got my job to do. The guy  have been doing their job the last couple games and if we keep going that, then we’ll be fine.”

On Zenon Konopka’s tweets on the previous blog, Yeo said, “I really don’t care what he says.” He added with a laugh, “I will say I was very disappointed to see Hoppy holding that sign.”

On a serious note, the reality is Yeo and the Wild has gone through this before. The reality is they’ve gotten out of this before, too, and usually for the better.

But it does seem like Yeo’s not able to find the right buttons to push right now and his words are bouncing off the locker-room wall.

The possible good news is the Wild has played much better the past two games, outshot and outchanced two very good teams. It has one point to show for it in those games, but quite often in losing streaks, you hear about how a coach started to see cracks in a team’s game before.

Maybe the coach is starting to see signs of the game building and a win streak on the horizon?

Yes, “We’ve got to get a win, we’ve got to back it up with another. It’s difficult to keep trying to point toward positives even though there are signs that the game has been better. With the shots that we’ve been creating and the chances that we’ve been creating, those are positive signs and we’re doing it against good teams. Those things are hard to see and hard to feel good about if you’re not winning hockey games. The way things are going, we need some things to feel good about right now.”

I’ll have more in Thursday’s paper.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Nebraska at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    7:07 pm

  • Boston at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    4:07 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball at Iowa

    6:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Iowa at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Vancouver

    9 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Wild at Calgary

    9 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

Poll: Should the Wild fire head coach Mike Yeo?

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Today's Scoreboard

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    6:00 PM

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    7:00 PM

    FSN

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    7:00 PM

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    7:30 PM

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    8:00 PM

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