With season opener looming, players still learning system

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2011 - 1:09 AM

The opener is nine days away, and to this point the Wild is still thinking about its next move on the ice during games, new coach Mike Yeo said.

Wild coach Mike Yeo

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press

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Wednesday morning's film review of Tuesday's loss to St. Louis didn't reveal any surprises. What Wild coach Mike Yeo thought he saw live was confirmed when played on a screen hours later.

The team still isn't quite getting his system.

"It's never going to be a perfect game, there's always going to be mistakes and shifts of momentum," Yeo said. "It's up to us to recognize when that is happening, when we're losing the momentum and how to get it back."

Yeo said after the game the team "got what we deserved" in the 4-3 loss, acknowledging a host of turnovers as the game went on.

By Wednesday afternoon he had done the tally. Though Yeo counted just 12 Blues scoring chances, more than half of those were the result of Wild miscues with the puck.

The season opener is nine days away, and to this point the Wild is still thinking about its next move on the ice during games, Yeo said. Eventually, that has to become reactionary if it wants to rack up some early victories.

"We need it to become habit for us," Yeo said. "When the pressure is on --when the game is on the line -- there is such little time to react."

Following back-to-back games beginning Thursday in Columbus to round out the exhibition schedule, the Wild will depart to Duluth as part of its final week of training camp. It will be part team-building, part system-building.

"It's nice to have that time," said newcomer Darroll Powe, who advanced to the playoffs with Philadelphia each of the past three seasons. "A lot of new faces this year, so building that team aspect will be a big part to being successful during the year. We're slowly getting it."

Fast enough?

"Yeah," he said. "It's going to have to be."

Veteran Nick Schultz, the Wild's career leader in games played (681), agreed.

"It comes down to the players buying in and working on it [to get] better at it," he said. "And that comes in practices. We have a good stretch here before the season starts and can kind of fine-tune."

Yeo said there is no magic formula.

"Part of a system is just a mentality," he said.

Oscar-worthy

Some of the Wild's team-building was on display Wednesday.

Much to the delight of several dozen team staffers on hand for a post-practice on-ice photo, players wrapped up the day's skate with a lighthearted shootout competition. Dany Heatley emerged the winner, but not before Cal Clutterbuck showed his impersonation skills.

Acting out the climactic final scene of the Rob Lowe movie "Youngblood," Clutterbuck circled around the puck at center ice, kicked it from his back skate to his stick and scored.

"If you can get a little fun out of it ... you're getting something good out of it," Yeo said.

Injury updates

Matt Cullen, still banged up from a hit by Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi, Jared Spurgeon (rib), Mike Lundin (back) and Cody Almond (back) all did not skate Wednesday.

Almond, no longer a contender to crack the lineup, appears to be the most seriously hurt.

"I don't know what the latest is, to be honest," Yeo said. "He's progressing slowly, let's put it that way. I'm disappointed for him, and I'm sure he's upset about it. He worked his rear end off this summer to come in and have a good camp. I was anxious to see what he could come in and do."

Defenseman Drew Bagnall (shoulder) has yet to be cleared to play but was sent to Houston to continue his rehab. Once cleared to play, he would have to clear waivers to remain there.

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