GLENDALE, ARIZ. — Dave Tippett looked to his left from the Phoenix Coyotes bench Saturday night and saw an abundantly familiar Wild coaching staff.
Assistant coach Rick Wilson was his longtime assistant in Dallas, assistant coach Darryl Sydor one of his former Stars defensemen. And head coach Mike Yeo? Yeo played for Tippett for five years with the old International Hockey League's Houston Aeros and was Tippett's captain when the two won a Turner Cup in 1999.
"He wasn't our best player, but he was one of our most respected for how he played and the sacrifices he made to win," Tippett said. "He epitomized how our team wanted to be perceived, and that was work ethic and doing things right and finding ways to win. That's what he's become as a coach. It's impressive what that team is doing there."
Yeo considers Tippett, who was a candidate for the Wild job when Todd Richards was hired in 2009, one of his mentors. Tippett has won 379 games and was named the 2010 Jack Adams Award winner.
"There's a lot of things I've tried to pattern myself off of the way he coaches, the way he deals with people, the way he gets the most out of his team," Yeo said. "I would love to have a small amount of the success he's had.
"He did a lot for me, teaching me how to play the game and coming out of junior, what it means to have an identity as a player and role as a player, and more than anything else, how to be a professional, how to prepare."
Clutterbuck still hurt
Cal Clutterbuck missed his second game because of a leg injury, but the injury is to his right leg, not the left -- the one that kept him out Dec. 2 against New Jersey.
"Thank Brent Burns," Clutterbuck said of the former Wild and current San Jose Sharks defenseman. "I went to him and he ducked down and stuck his butt out. He got Seto, too."
It was also Burns whose shot caused Devin Setoguchi's right knee injury. Clutterbuck practiced Friday and skated Saturday, but he and Yeo decided it was smarter to take another game off.
"This gives it three extra days to settle down for Tuesday [in Winnipeg]," Clutterbuck said. "Sit one more out and make sure it gets better rather than force it today and then something else happens and I'm out twice as long."
The Wild is certainly expecting him to play; it reassigned Jeff Taffe, who had two assists in two games, after Saturday's game.
Aeros on top, too
Before Saturday's games, the Wild had the most points in the NHL and its affiliate Aeros, coached by John Torchetti, were tied for the most points in the American Hockey League.
"It's a big statement to have both teams at the top of their leagues. It's hard to do," said defenseman Nate Prosser, who has split time with both teams. "It's a good shout-out to management. I'm amazed at Houston. Between callups and their injuries, their lineup is hardly even the Aeros. It's crazy."
Yeo said, "The coaching staff down there is doing a great job not just winning hockey games but also preparing our guys to come up and play well for us as well."
The Wild and Aeros play the same system.
Arizona-based J.B. Spisso, the former Army Ranger and master motivator (www.eliteleadershiptraining.com), reunited with the Wild before and after Friday's practice for a talk and activity. It was Spisso who put the Wild through team bonding ("Operation: Urgent Fury") in Wisconsin before the season.
"This team is exactly what you want in a team. They have a common enemy and they don't care who gets credit," Spisso said. "When I talked to them, I noticed they were all focused and all fit. They are all lean. To the man, they are all leaner."
That could help explain why the Wild is one of the league's best third-period teams.