Compressed NHL schedule produces playoff feel every night

  • Article by: CHRIS MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2013 - 12:48 AM

The last month of a condensed schedule promises to be frantic.

 

The NHL season, truncated to 48 games because of the four-month lockout, had a sense of urgency from its start in January. But the last month of a condensed schedule promises to be frantic.

“It almost has a playoff feel,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “There’s very little practice time. You just have to make sure you get rest, and find a way to get refocused. Push the last one aside, win or lose, and get ready for what you need to do to get ready for the next one.”

The Wild extended their winning streak to seven games with a 4-3 overtime victory over Phoenix on Wednesday. That left Minnesota in first place in the Northwest Division, with the third-most points in the Western Conference.

During its streak, which came in four different time zones, the Wild ended long stretches of futility in Vancouver, Detroit and Dallas. Wednesday started a stretch of six games in nine days.

“The one thing that has really helped us is having as many games as we have in a short period of time,” Yeo said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to feel real good about ourselves. It’s kind of get back on the horse and get to the next one.”

The Wild has outscored teams 31-17 in the seven-game streak.

“We’re feeling better about just the way we’re playing the game,” winger Cal Clutterbuck said before the game. “We were never worried about whether we were going to have our work ethic, but the exciting part is seeing what the product is out on the ice.”

State of hockey

Matt Cullen scored his 200th career goal in the Wild’s 7-4 victory at Dallas on Monday and added a goal Wednesday. The 36-year-old center became the ninth Minnesota-born player to reach 200 goals. The others are David Christian (340), Phil Housley (338), Neal Broten (289), Jamie Langenbrunner (243), Reed Larson (222), Mark Parrish (216), Jason Blake (213) and Cullen’s teammate Zach Parise (208).

“I’ve watched him for a few years — on TV,” said Wild winger Charlie Coyle, who just turned 21. “And it’s obviously much better playing on the same team with him. He’s still got the great speed, he stays right with it. He takes care of his body and does all the little things right. To score 200 goals, that’s a great accomplishment.”

Can’t walk, can skate

The Wild got a scare Monday when Clutterbuck slammed into a goalpost against Dallas, injuring his right leg in the first period. But Clutterbuck returned for the third period, assisting on a pair of goals, including Kyle Brodziak’s short-handed game-winner.

“I went in pretty hard, felt a little twisting and torqueing, so I was unsure about it,” Clutterbuck said. “I really didn’t expect to be able to go back, but it was kind of weird. I was having a lot of difficulty walking, so I just decided to throw my skate on and see how that would go, and it turned out it was a lot less painful skating than it was walking.”

Etc.

• The Wild’s Ryan Suter is second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 27 points, on threegoals and 24 assists. He scored late in regulation Wednesday, leaving him a point behind Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, who went on injured reserve because of a broken toe.

• Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, one of the NHL’s best last season when had a 2.21 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, was placed on injured reserve by the Coyotes, retroactive to Friday. Smith, who has a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage this season, suffered an upper-body injury, likely whiplash, when he was run over by Vancouver’s Alexander Edler on Thursday.

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