COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Wild is exhausted, more mentally than physically, which is more concerning to coach Mike Yeo.
After what he called “a grueling stretch” during which his dragging team completed eight games in 13 nights with a third consecutive loss Thursday, Yeo and several players admitted fatigue has set in.
That has resulted in questionable decisions on the ice.
In Thursday’s 3-0 loss in Los Angeles, the Wild gave up two goals on two shots a little more than three minutes into the game. And the Kings’ second and third goals came directly off bad turnovers, then poor line changes by veterans.
The Wild has lost four times in the past five games, but it’s not getting completely outplayed. In Los Angeles, the Wild tied a team record for fewest shots allowed in a road game (14). But lack of focus is evident. Breakouts haven’t been clean. Sustained forechecks have been nearly nonexistent. And these are two facets of the Wild’s game that had been so improved this season.
“I’m not one for making excuses, you know me, [but] you can see it on the video that we don’t have the legs,” Yeo said. “You see it in the game [Thursday]. We’ve got one guy going and [the other two forwards] are dragging their feet coming up the ice. It’s not because we’re not working. It’s because we don’t have that extra push to get there right now.”
The Wild, hoping for a good night’s rest, stayed in Los Angeles after Thursday’s game before taking a 1,990-mile flight to Columbus, where it will complete a three-game road trip Sunday in an arena that traditionally hasn’t been kind to the Wild against a confident team that just acquired former Wild gamebreaker Marian Gaborik.
The Wild will practice Saturday — potentially its first real practice in 14 days. Maybe that will help cure the Wild’s ills?
“Practices aren’t that important this time of year,” said defenseman Ryan Suter, who logs the most ice time per game in the NHL. “The travel is the biggest thing. You get worn down. It’s tough. … But we’re not making excuses. We just have to dig down and just get back to playing simple hockey. I think we’re trying to complicate it, and that doesn’t make it any easier for us.”
Yeo says the “good news is the schedule eases up now, but on top of that, we can’t just sit here and say ‘OK, that’s great.’ We’ve got to demand a little bit more of ourselves.”
Still, the Columbus game is the first of seven in 12 days. And with veterans Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley hurt, that recent seven-game winning streak seems like a distant memory.
Players say there can’t be panic.
“You just have to dig down and work harder to get out of that hole,” Suter said. “We have the guys in here that can do it. We just have to do it.”
As reported in Friday’s editions, the Buffalo Sabres are picking up part of Jason Pominville’s contract. According to capgeek.com, it’s 15 percent of the remaining contract, which is $200,000 this season and $795,000 next.
This season was a necessity because otherwise the Wild would have eclipsed the $70.2 million cap. Regardless, the Wild has only $100,000 in cap space, which does inhibit the ability for callups.