Wild's chemistry has little reaction without catalysts

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 14, 2011 - 3:53 PM

Injuries to Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner depleted the team's grit, and a slump has followed.

Minnesota Wild Cal Clutterbuck, right, slams Calgary Flames defenceman Cory Sarich into the boards during first-period NHL hockey game action in Calgary, Alberta, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.

Photo: Jeff McIntosh, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - There were multiple reasons, but one big reason the Wild didn't add at the trade deadline Feb. 28 was management's trepidation to fiddle with the chemistry of a close-knit, (at the time) solid-playing team.

The thing about chemistry, though, is if you remove a couple of chemicals, the entire concoction changes and now you've got a mixture of who knows what.

That's what has happened with the Wild. Take Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner out of the lineup because of injuries, and you have a completely different team and, especially, identity.

"You think about how hard we played in Anaheim and L.A. a few weeks ago," coach Todd Richards said. "I know Mikko didn't play, but Clutter and Stoner did. Look at that battle and how hard we competed.

"You take those two from your lineup with Mikko already out, these are hard-working battlers. That affects the energy and character of your team and how it competes. So Mikko, to me, is the main ingredient, but you take out two important ingredients like Clutter and Stoner, too, it affects the way your team plays in a big way."

The reality is when it comes to pure talent, the Wild doesn't evenly match up with many teams in the NHL. But what made the Wild successful during a two-plus-month stretch of mostly solid hockey was its work ethic.

It finally figured out how to be successful through defending well, getting good goaltending and sending pucks deep in the opponent's zone, but it all started with a willingness to compete.

That identity is fractured, at least during consecutive 4-0 losses at Nashville and Dallas to begin this four-game road trip that continues Monday against league-leading Vancouver.

"We've lacked that edge and battle level and emotion," right winger Antti Miettinen said. "That's what we have to get back."

The good news is "there's a chance" Koivu returns Monday from a broken finger against the Canucks. While it sounds as if Clutterbuck (head) will miss his fifth consecutive game, Stoner hopes to return after missing three games because of abdominal pain.

Koivu and Richards had a long talk on the ice late in Sunday's practice, but neither was tipping his hand. A decision whether Koivu can play will be made Monday.

Since Koivu's injury, the Wild is 4-5-1. You can get by with that type of record early in the season, but not any longer. The Wild is 11th in the Western Conference -- four points from a playoff spot -- with 13 games remaining.

"Mikko drives our team, without question," Richards said. "Mikko does so many other things, and it's unfortunate that when people lump together the top centers, they're always basing it on points. Mikko does so much more than that for us.

"You do wonder at times when you lose your captain, 'How is the team going to go?' We've got guys that push it, but nobody pushes it like Mikko does."

In Koivu's first four games out, the Wild went 2-1-1 to put itself as high as fifth in the conference. While players were able to elevate their game initially, "the longer it keeps going, the importance of him is more," Miettinen said. "But with or without him, there's certain things we have to do well in order to win. A lot of that is battle and work ethic.

"And that is also where you miss him. It's not just his skill, but his example. The work ethic and relentless style of play he has is contagious. Guys see that and do it themselves."

Still, the Wild won't pressure its players to play hurt even with the season evaporating.

"Guys have to feel that they can perform," Richards said. "You want them feeling confident. Without a question, if we have those guys in the lineup, 'Are we a better team?' Absolutely.

"But they have to be ready to go physically, and they have to be right in their minds, too. Because if there's doubt, that's going to be holding them back."

Etc.

• Injured goalie Josh Harding has joined the Wild on the road but didn't practice Sunday.

• Forward Guillaume Latendresse (lower body) will be examined on Monday by doctors. He is back in Minnesota because of soreness.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 86 2nd Half 1:39
Hawaii 76
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close