Wild tries to find lesson in slump

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2011 - 12:22 AM

Coach Mike Yeo isn't wavering from his message, and his players say they'll emerge stronger from the skid.


Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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Wild coach Mike Yeo wasn't saying anything new, either to the players or the media.

There were no wrinkles in the scheme, no adjustments to the system. While the Wild was on the ice for a rather brisk hour-plus-long practice Tuesday, Yeo stressed the same things he always stressed.

"Let's get back to work," Yeo said. "Let's get excited about coming to the rink [Wednesday] and playing against Nashville. Let's give ourselves a great chance to win the hockey game."

The Wild is on a seven-game winless streak on the heels of a seven-game winning streak, a flip-flop that hasn't happened in the NHL since 1999. The Wild has gone from having the highest point total in the league to being sixth in the Western Conference, and it fell out of first place in the Northwest Division after a 4-2 loss to Colorado on Monday.

Yeo said the Wild's problems were coming early enough in the season to correct them, stating that the team would be better for having gone through the tough times. That was a message with which his players apparently agree.

"We will be better," right winger Cal Clutterbuck said. "We'll have the experience of going through this, and of being able to get out of it.''

Tuesday's practice was spent on puck control in the offensive end, defending the puck and getting shots to the net. This is particularly important for the power play, which has struggled. The Wild got injured center Mikko Koivu back Monday, but lost defenseman Jared Spurgeon after he was driven into the boards from behind by Colorado's Cody McLeod early in the game. Spurgeon, who plays the point on the power play, has a lower body injury -- he was helped from the ice clearly favoring his left leg -- which Yeo said won't be long term.

McLeod, by the way, received no further discipline from the NHL.

With Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner (lower body) out, the Wild called up defenseman Nate Prosser and right winger Jon DiSalvatore from Houston of the AHL. Stoner went on injured reserve.

"We had a good practice today," Yeo said. "We need that, to get back into some system work, get back to ironing out some details of our game that have been lacking. That's the way we have to play, go into games with the intention that we're going to play our game better than [the opponent] is going to play theirs. When we do that we're a tough team to play against."

After the loss to Colorado, Yeo talked about his team being fragile, not quite as tough in the face of adversity as it was earlier. How do you correct that?

"That's a good question," center Matt Cullen said. "That's when, as a group, we have to come together and battle that. That's the hard thing in sports, what you do when things aren't going your way. This is a determined group, nobody is happy with the way things have gone here of late."

Still, Yeo doesn't want players trying to right the ship on their own.

"We want to win so bad, but we have to make sure we're doing the right things here," Yeo said. "We have to get that focus in our head that we'll go and play our game. We'll do what we do well and do it shift after shift."

Clutterbuck talked about pushing back rather than getting pushed around.

"Things can be going well and the other team pushes, and you have to go here," Clutterbuck said, raising his hand higher. "We have to keep climbing the ladder. Eventually the other team won't be able to get up there with you, and that's how you win. But that gets harder as the season goes on."

It won't be easy in Nashville, where the Predators -- coming off a 4-1 loss to Detroit -- are clinging to eighth place in the Western Conference.

"We have to learn from this and get past this," defenseman Nick Schultz said. "Hopefully we'll look back at this and see it as a stepping stone."

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