Wild's plan to improve: More attention to detail

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 29, 2013 - 11:30 AM

Coach Mike Yeo sounded less concerned about its scoring depth than about its inability to play with precision and focus for an entire game.

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Wild coach Mike Yeo during training camp.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune file

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On the wall above Zach Parise's locker, the word COMMITMENT is painted in red block letters, a reminder of something the Wild considers essential to its identity. Monday, Parise used that same word to describe what his team must do to rid itself of the mistakes that overshadowed last weekend's road trip.

The Wild lost 5-3 at Detroit, then surrendered a third period lead at St. Louis to fall 5-4 in overtime. Parise remained its shining star, with five points -- including four goals -- in the two games. Coach Mike Yeo said he might make some changes to the Wild's lines for Tuesday's game against Columbus, though he will leave the Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley line intact.

Though the Wild has gotten only three of its 13 goals from players other than that trio, Yeo sounded less concerned about its scoring depth than about its inability to play with precision and focus for an entire game. Parise cited the same problem. The winger said the team got another look at its flaws in a video session before Monday's practice, and he emphasized it is time for the Wild to recognize the difference between being a good team and an average one.

"It's important for us to not allow ourselves to keep making the same mistakes over and over, especially in a shorter season,'' said Parise, who leads the Wild with four goals and five assists and has points in every game. "We have to recognize what we're doing wrong, what's not working, and start doing things on a more consistent basis.

"It's a commitment to doing certain things that allow you to win hockey games. It's a willingness to keep doing the right things over and over.''

Yeo said that in both losses, the Wild scored enough to win. But too often, it failed to live up to another core value: being a difficult and frustrating opponent.

The Blues, he said, provided a fine model of how to exploit a defense and take control of a game. While he appreciated the Wild's effort, its attention to detail was sporadic, causing too many costly breakdowns.

Yeo said he is pleased with the scoring chances the other lines are generating, and he believes the Wild has not hit its stride yet. While Parise said his line still can do more, Yeo said he hopes its tenacity and consistency in all phases of the game will rub off on others.

"We don't need to blow it all up here,'' Yeo said. "We don't need to panic, because there are opportunities there that are just not going in. ... I've seen we can be a very good team in spurts. I've seen we can do it again for periods. It's up to us to make sure we keep building so we're doing it for full games.''

Balancing act

Koivu and defenseman Ryan Suter did not practice Monday, taking a day of rest instead. Yeo said the compressed schedule will make it challenging to strike the right balance of practice and recovery time this season. While he felt the Wild needed to practice after its flawed performance in St. Louis, he also must keep his players as fresh as possible.

That's especially true of veteran players. But Yeo said that in many cases, they also are the toughest to keep off the ice.

"What you try to do every day is figure out what you've got in the tank,'' he said. "Making sure you have enough energy to play the game is paramount. Having said that, you've got to take the time to work on the things you need to work on.

"We have guys that love the game, love being out on the ice. It's up to us to look at the minutes they've played and the type of minutes they've played and decide what they need. Our veterans like being on the ice to the point where sometimes, we might need to kick them off and get them to understand they need rest instead.''

Etc.

• Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has missed the past two games because of a bone bruise in a foot, tried to practice Monday but did not stay on the ice for long. Yeo did not sound optimistic about his chances of returning to the lineup Tuesday. "He came out and tried [to practice], and it wasn't great,'' Yeo said. "So I'm not sure.''

• Wild prospect Jason Zucker scored a goal and assist in West's 7-6 victory in the AHL All-Star Game.

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