Frustration lingers as earlier success keeps eluding Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 9, 2012 - 12:26 PM

Mike Yeo chose his words carefully Saturday night because he's coaching a "fragile group" that is trying desperately to halt a standings nosedive like few others.


Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom looked back at the puck as center Mikko Koivu crashed into him and Calgary's Jarome Iginla scored his 500th career goal on Jan. 7.

Photo: Jeff McIntosh, Associated Press

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Mike Yeo chose his words carefully Saturday night because he's coaching a "fragile group" that is trying desperately to halt a standings nosedive like few others.

If you tiptoed around the beleaguered Wild's losing locker room after its latest empty feeling to the Calgary Flames, that fragility was palpable.

You could see the frustration with the naked eye, and that's something the Wild players cannot afford to let overtake them as they try to snap out of an 11-losses-in-12-games funk with challenging games against San Jose, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Toronto on the horizon.

"It's about being professional," center Kyle Brodziak said. "Frustration is probably the easy way to go about it. The harder thing to do is just to dig deeper and try to find ways to be positive and keep coming to work just knowing in the back of your mind that eventually it's going to pay off.

"Yeah, you can't get frustrated. Frustration is an evil thing that will just make it so much worse."

That is easier said than done, however, considering how far the Wild has plummeted in recent weeks. Even when the Wild displays positive signs of rebuilding its game like it did in the first two periods Saturday, it often gets no reward for the effort.

Then one bad thing happens, and it's catastrophe from there.

"A lot of times when you're struggling, you end up on your heels a lot," Yeo said. "We're just not that aggressive. There seems to be a bit of fear or lack of confidence or whatever it is, we're just not as aggressive as we were earlier and we don't attack the same way."

That was certainly the case Saturday in Calgary when the Wild, which ranks 29th in goals and has scored five times in the past seven road games, couldn't execute.

Odd-man rushes didn't develop into anything. Pucks would lay in the crease and players would reach from the periphery. Long cycles would end without even a shot.

"We're obviously having a tough time scoring goals," Brodziak said. "I think some of the things we did was a step in the right direction, and if we keep doing them, keep doing them, the goals will eventually come. We spent more time in the offensive end than we have in a long time.

"It's hard to see when you don't have the success."

This is a new experience for the Wild, so it has nothing in the bank to draw upon to get out of it.

"This is part of the journey," Yeo said.

Goalie Niklas Backstrom has never experienced anything like this.

"I've been on teams that had tough stretches, tough times, but I haven't been on a team that you've been on top and then suddenly it goes the other way," Backstrom said. "It's a challenge for us. We have to climb back. There's half a season, 40 games left, there's enough hockey.

"It's tough for us now. But if we can turn it around, I think that's going to be our strength in the future. Maybe it just takes one good game or one 2-1 win and then after that, we're rolling."

Familiar surroundings

San Jose's Brent Burns grew up with the Wild, and Tuesday night, the Wild's career scoring leader among defensemen returns to Xcel Energy Center for the first time since he was a key element in the trade for Devin Setoguchi during the 2011 NHL entry draft.

"It's definitely going to be a weird feeling coming back and playing in the building and going to the far side," Burns said. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to see a lot of my friends from around the Cities. It was weird playing them the first game [in November], but I think this will be harder at the start.

"I'll just try and get into the game and hopefully it goes well."

Scandella struggles

Wild defenseman Marco Scandella has been a mess lately. He is a minus-9 the past eight games.

"I think he's afraid, not afraid of the game or getting hit or anything like that," Yeo said. "He's afraid of making a mistake right now. He puts an awful lot on his shoulders, he puts an awful lot of the team's burdens on his own back, and with that he's carried some extra baggage out there.

"Earlier in the year, he wanted to be on the ice, he wanted the puck on his stick. I just want to see that again from him."


    Up next: 6:30 p.m. Tues. vs. San Jose • Xcel Center • TV: NBCSP (100.3-FM)

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