The Wild coach believes his best players might be trying to do too much.
NASHVILLE There was a small meeting here Saturday morning before the Wild took the ice for their morning skate in preparation for the game against the Predators. Wild coach Jacques Lemaire presided. Also in attendance: Brian Rolston, Marian Gaborik, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Eric Belanger.
Lemaire's message: I need less out of you guys.
Come again? The Wild is struggling to score goals and Lemaire is asking his skill guys for less? Well, pardon the paraphrase.
What Lemaire wants is for his guys to stop trying to do everything by themselves. As the Wild has slumped, Lemaire has watched these guys grip their sticks tighter and tighter. They feel responsible for getting the team back on track, feel it's their job to pick up the slack for the injured Pavol Demitra and Mikko Koivu. Problem is, they all are trying to do it all by themselves.
Stop it, Lemaire said.
"The guys, they feel they're losing their confidence a bit," Lemaire said. "Because they're not scoring and they squeeze the stick a little more. The team's not winning and they feel responsible. I told them, don't get discouraged, it will only make things worse. You have to maybe try not to do too much. Just focus on working hard, making things simple."
This was a much-needed message.
Rolston, captain for the month of November, entered Saturday's game having gone without a goal for eight games, his longest stretch with the Wild. It hasn't helped that he's been moved to center the past three games, but he hadn't scored for a while before that. Belanger and Bouchard entered the game on a six-game streak without a goal.
For Rolston, the past two weeks have been very difficult to take.
"It really gets to you, absolutely," he said. "For the team to be struggling and not to be scoring? When it's your job? I haven't scored in quite a few games and I take responsibility for that. You put the pressure on yourself. But it is in those times that you have to keep it simple. That's what Jacques talked about."
So what does doing less entail? Less trying to carry the puck yourself and more quick, easy passes. Fewer attempts at the fancy plays and more pucks put on the net.
"As an example, going to the net more," Lemaire said. "I said, the [fancy] plays, they don't work right now."
Lemaire did not fault the level of effort being given. Indeed, Rolston said he watches tapes of every game and he sees the same thing.
"It was such a good meeting," Belanger said. "It's so important to have your mind clear when you play this game, and Jacques knows that. He played the game and he was one of those go-to guys. He said just relax and play hard."
Eventually, Bouchard said, the goals will return. "You make a few plays and the confidence will come back," he said.
After playing in two consecutive games, Sean Hill was a healthy scratch. Hill said his legs have felt good, considering the long layoff, but the need to get Keith Carney back in the game and the fact that this was the second of back-to-back games contributed to the decision. Derek Boogaard was the other healthy scratch.
Kurtis Foster (26) and Petteri Nummelin (35) celebrated birthdays Saturday.
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