Wild's battle is now on the inside

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2011 - 1:38 AM

After a rout by the Blues that was met with both boos and indifference, players huddled for a last-ditch reality check.

Antti Miettinen (20) was congratulated by Andrew Brunette after scoring an early Wild goal, but such highlights were rare Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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As soon as reporters walked into the locker room Saturday night, players waved at them to exit.

"We have a meeting," Chuck Kobasew said, each player at his stall.

The down-and-out Wild was just trounced yet again on home ice, this time 6-3 by the St. Louis Blues. The Wild blew two one-goal leads and was outshot 47-16 for an eighth consecutive loss.

Thirty minutes after frustrated, embarrassed players and coaches aired things out, the doors swung open to an eerily silent locker room.

"It's a serious situation," captain Mikko Koivu said. "I know it's the game of hockey. In life, there's a lot more serious things happening. You've got your families and health.

"But this is what we get paid for, this is our job and it's a huge part of our lives. We're responsible for that. We're responsible for each other in the room. We're responsible for the organization. We're responsible for the fans. Like I said, it's a real serious situation right now."

Even more serious, anger has turned into apathy at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild has become a target for a chorus of boos much of this season from fed-up home crowds, but when a few hundred tried to boo the Wild off the ice after the latest meager second period, the thousands left couldn't even bring themselves to join in.

Maybe it's because they expended all their energy sending the Wild a loud, mocking cheer at the 30:19 minute mark when the Wild finally mustered its fifth shot of the hockey game.

"I feel for the fans," center John Madden said. "Trust me, I don't go home and think everything's all right. I've never missed the playoffs. I don't know if this is going to be my last year, but I'll tell you what, to go out like this, it really stinks."

In the meantime, the seat underneath coach Todd Richards right now is blazing hot.

The Wild's second consecutive March meltdown has put his job undoubtedly in jeopardy. But with the past three games being 8-1, 3-0 and 6-3 losses, one wonders if the Wild will make a change before the season ends.

Owner Craig Leipold is out of the country on a family vacation. GM Chuck Fletcher didn't attend Saturday's game.

"My coaching and playing, I don't recall ever feeling like this," Richards said.

The Wild just couldn't execute. Its forechecks were weak, its backchecks were sloppy. Even though he was dramatically outchanced, Niklas Backstrom was fighting the puck all night, coughing up rebounds so much, he looked to be playing with two blockers.

The Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat line was minus-3, with Havlat logging 10 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time.

Afterward, Richards talked about how hard Bouchard and Brodziak worked.

"Marty, at times, was OK," Richards said, the disappointment in his voice speaking volumes.

Asked if Havlat didn't "work," Richards said, "Nope, he was OK."

It was only the second time in history the Wild was swept in a homestand of at least four games. The Wild, with the reality of a third consecutive premature offseason on the horizon, has seemed to check out.

"It is not rocket science to figure out there's a lot of unhappiness in here right now," said Andrew Brunette. "We've got to hit the reset button. We are not what we played like on the ice the last little while. This is not us. We need to finish the season off the right way and play the way we're capable of. Everybody can sense the frustration around this team."

Asked if certain players have quit, Brunette said, "That's a big word to use so you hate to use it, so I'm not going to use it and I hope to God that's not the case."

Richards said the Wild "definitely needed more fight," but, "I don't think the right term is quit."

He added: "I'm a simple guy. To me, whatever task you take, you do it to the best of your ability and you put everything into it. That's what we expect out of our team."

• Defenseman Nate Prosser was reassigned to Houston.

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