Will Wild go for No. 1 pick? Yeo doesn't think like that

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2012 - 11:03 PM

The team with the most points in the NHL as late as Dec. 17 has a bona fide shot at finishing with the second-fewest points in the NHL.

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Wild coach Mike Yeo watched during the third period of Minnesota's 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON -- The team with the most points in the NHL as late as Dec. 17 has a bona fide shot at finishing with the second-fewest points in the NHL.

That's how far the Wild, 11-27-7 since mid-December, has sunk. The team sits at 25th in the NHL with 72 points -- only one point ahead of the Islanders, Oilers and Canadiens.

The bottom five teams have a chance for the No. 1 overall pick in the April 10 draft lottery, and for a team that has hit on precious few first-round picks in its history, an elite draft pick could be just what the doctor ordered.

Even coach Mike Yeo noted how many snipers Washington had compared to the Wild in a 3-0 victory Sunday, and the head honcho was Alex Ovechkin, the No.1 pick in the 2004 draft who had a goal, assist and directed 14 shots at net.

But don't expect Yeo to try to position the Wild for the lowest possible finish during these final seven games.

"I don't think like that at all," Yeo said. "I like a lot of things that we have. There's no doubt we're not quite there. I think we all know that. But I like a lot of things that we have. We have a lot of guys who we can win with, not only to get into the playoffs, but the type of guys you want in your lineup when you do play in the playoffs."

Yeo noted that the Wild has a lot of top prospects about to turn pro and trusts that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr will find another elite first-round pick no matter where the Wild finishes.

Cullen wears splint

Center Matt Cullen wouldn't go as far as to say his season is over after breaking his right index finger Saturday in Buffalo, but "time's getting short."

Cullen, who watched Sunday's game in Washington while wearing a splint, will be examined by Wild doctors Monday to find out the severity of the fracture and a timeline.

With 4 1/2 minutes left Saturday and the Wild down by a goal, he tried to knock down Christian Ehrhoff's shot so he could take off on transition.

He knew right away he broke it.

"It's just a fluky thing," Cullen said. "You block a lot of shots through the course of the season, and that one wasn't particularly hard. It just happened to find the right spot, and it breaks the bone."

Cullen, 35, who has 14 goals and 35 points in 73 games, was born in Virginia, Minn., and grew up in Moorhead. Two years into a three-year deal, missing the playoffs both years is not the way Cullen envisioned his homecoming.

"It's especially disappointing the way things started off so promising [this season]," he said. "You're watching these games, and you're watching all these teams battling for playoffs spots, and it's kind of a 'what should have been.' It's tough to watch knowing and thinking that we should be there."

Playing flat stick

The Wild continues to give up lots of 2-on-1's lately. As disconcerting, it continues to play them terribly.

In Sunday's loss, Yeo said defensemen Clayton Stoner and Marco Scandella were both "in between" trying to defend passes from Alexander Semin to Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer to Mathieu Perreault, respectively.

"It looked like we wanted to go long body and lay down and take away that lane, but we were playing flat stick and being down on one knee," Yeo said. "That's not the right way to do it. We were indecisive, and you can't have that."

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