Shoot the puck.
This was the message Wild coach Mike Yeo sent throughout a brisk practice Friday. One day after a loss to Anaheim in which the Wild didn't score at even strength, and a day before Saturday's matchup with vaunted Detroit, Yeo sent that message over and over.
This one, too: Go to the net.
Yeo said he doesn't think his players are doing enough of either. Instead, he sees players sometimes trying to make one too many passes, or skating away from the net trying to find a more perfect angle.
"Go on nhl.com and see how goals are scored," Yeo said. "Across the board, every game, it's the same thing. At least four out of five goals of every game, if not five out of five, is you get a puck in that area, around the blue paint, and you have numbers there. We have to become better at that."
Entering Saturday's game against the Red Wings the Wild is averaging only 2.4 goals per game. Yeo said he believes he has the players who can change that. The key is changing the way the team goes about trying to score.
Yeo noted that, at times, Wild players are actually moving away from the net trying to retain possession in the offensive zone or trying for a better shot. "It's nice to get a little zone time," he said. "But we have to start getting that initial movement to the net. ... For the guys with the puck, it's a commitment to getting pucks through to the net. And for the guys without the puck, it's an understanding that we're going to have that mentality and they should be going there."
Meanwhile, Yeo continued to tinker with his lines, moving Guillaume Latendresse onto the top line along with center Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. Yeo played that trio together for a couple of shifts against Anaheim on Thursday and liked what he saw. "I think [Latendresse] is a guy who can add some real strength on the puck, a playmaking ability," Yeo said. "He's another guy [on the line] who can put the puck in the net."
That had center Matt Cullen centering Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Devin Setoguchi, Kyle Brodziak centering Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Johnson.
"Again, not only are we early in [the process of] trying to find our game and develop that, we're still trying to learn our personnel," Yeo said. "We have to keep trying until we find something that clicks."
A new defenseman?
Defensemen Greg Zanon and Clayton Stoner did not practice Friday, and neither is expected to play Saturday. Stoner hurt a finger blocking a shot during Thursday's game against Anaheim and had a Friday morning doctor appointment; Yeo didn't have the results by the time practice ended. But Yeo did suggest a move would might be coming with the team shorthanded on the blue line. Nate Prosser was expected to be recalled from Houston, with Zanon likely to go on injured reserve.
• Matt Kassian celebrated his 25th birthday by practicing as a defenseman with Zanon and Stoner out. He got a shaving cream pie to his face following practice. There were balloons and cookies in his stall in the dressing room, presumably from his family.
• Josh Harding will get the start Saturday against Detroit. It will be his second start, both against the Red Wings. Talk about tough duty. The Wild coaches took part in the shootout drill that typically ends practice. Yeo managed to score on Harding. "I let him score," Harding insisted. "Otherwise I don't know If I would have started [Saturday]."