Wild about to face difficult stretch in schedule

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2013 - 2:10 PM

A stretch of elite rivals over the next 11 games will be a true measure of what strides the Wild has made.

– The Wild is off to its best start in franchise history, picking off 34 points in its first 24 games and 25 out of a possible 30 points in the past 15 games.

But in that 15-game stretch, the Wild has played four teams that would make the playoffs if the 16-team postseason began today.

Basically, the Wild has beaten the teams it is supposed to beat, taking advantage of a friendly schedule that has yet to include four of the Western Conference’s top eight teams — St. Louis, Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix.

That all changes now.

“Now will be the real test,” Zach Parise said after Sunday’s practice at Scottrade Center.

Beginning Monday in St. Louis, nine of the Wild’s next 11 games come against the top five teams in the West and the current eighth-place team — in order, Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Those six teams are a combined 95-26-14 (.756).

Of those teams, the Wild has played only Anaheim and Chicago this season, going a combined 1-1-1.

So mid-December should bring a better sense if the Wild is for real.

“I think this will be the stretch where we’ll see what type of team we have and where we’re at,” said Parise, who has scored 11 goals and leads the Wild with 22 points in 24 games. “We’ve done a good job at the beginning of the year for the most part beating the teams we should beat.

“Now, we get a lot of the elite teams. We have to be a lot of sharper than we have been the last few games.”

It starts with the big, bad Blues, who may technically sit third in the conference but are on pace for a league-high 130.4 points. They’ve played four fewer games than NHL-leading Anaheim and two games fewer than second-place Chicago.

They’re 16-3-3 overall and 10-1-2 at home and are one of the league’s deepest teams. They have a goal differential of plus-29 in 22 games (the Wild is plus-9 in 24 games) and they have won six games by three or more goals.

“I would say their defensive squad is as good as you can find in the league,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “The way they skate, they’re big, they’re strong. Their forwards have an identity the way they play. When you play them, you’re going to have to work for everything you get.”

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who passed Bryan Murray for eighth all-time with 621 wins with Saturday’s 6-1 dismantling of Dallas, was doing his best Sunday to deflect any of that “best team in the league” talk. He raved about the Wild, called them “really well-coached and I see tremendous structure. They’re similar to us where they’re a sum-of-parts team.”

Hitchcock also puts Minnesota right up there with the top teams in the West.

“I’ve never seen it this fast and I’ve never seen it this competitive in the West,” Hitchcock said. “I mean, I’ve never seen so many good teams in one conference since I’ve coached in the NHL.”

Because of this, captain Mikko Koivu said it’s critical the Wild not take its foot off the gas. He looks forward to the challenge ahead and playing with the structure that the Wild let slip in last week’s game at Montreal and the first period Saturday in Winnipeg.

“We’ve got to be satisfied with the points, but we’ve been a little sloppy, and I think the Montreal game was a good wake-up call for us,” Koivu said. “There’s a certain structure we have to play with to be successful, and we have to stay with that.

“It’s being disciplined everywhere. You can’t sit in the box, you can’t cheat, you have to play the way you’re supposed to play so you support your teammate and you have to be quick. If you want to create anything in this league, you have to be quick going from defense to offense.”

Defenseman Ryan Suter said the upcoming schedule will be a “huge challenge. It’ll be fun for us to see how good we really are.”

Yeo cautioned that the Wild can’t look at the upcoming schedule as a whole.

“Every game presents a new challenge,” Yeo said. “The best teams are able to stay focused on the short term and for us that’s [Monday].”

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Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
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St. Louis
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Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
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Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Dallas 12/4/14 7:25 PM
Chicago
Chicago 109 FINAL
Boston 102
Golden State 66 3rd Qtr 5:14
Charlotte 72
Dallas 48 2nd Qtr 2:59
Toronto 37
Milwaukee 53 3rd Qtr
Detroit 45
New Orleans 28 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 41
LA Clippers 24 1st Qtr 0:47
Houston 24
New York 13 1st Qtr 1:45
Oklahoma City 28
Orlando 20 1st Qtr 0:25
Indiana 24
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Denver
Memphis 9:00 PM
Portland
Minnesota 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Washington 5
Winnipeg 1 2nd Prd 3:46
Boston 0
Montreal 0 2nd Prd 4:56
Buffalo 1
Detroit 2 2nd Prd 8:42
New Jersey 4
Carolina 2 2nd Prd :26
Pittsburgh 2
Vancouver 1 2nd Prd 2:30
Columbus 0
Ottawa 2 2nd Prd 17:19
Florida 1
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 5:46
St. Louis 1
Minnesota 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tennessee 67 FINAL
Kansas 82
Eastern Ill 40 FINAL
NC Central 65
New Orleans 65 FINAL
Texas A&M 87
Radford 65 FINAL
NC A&T 57
Butler 64 FINAL
Georgetown 58
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Brown 81
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Wright State 59
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Bucknell 80
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Ohio State 73
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TX A&M-CC 75
Missouri State 55 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 51
Minnesota 66 FINAL
Georgia 62
Oklahoma 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 69
Stephen F Austin 83 FINAL
Austin Peay 62
Norfolk State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 70
Middle Tennessee 51 FINAL
Cincinnati 69
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Florida State 58
Princeton 65 FINAL
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Washington St 76
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Cal State Fullerton 64
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Georgia Tech 57
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Hartford 75
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Maryland 42
South Alabama 61 2nd Half 4:40
Miami-Florida 73
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NC State 51
Vanderbilt 47 2nd Half 10:26
Rutgers 49
Gonzaga 48 2nd Half 13:00
St Johns 37
Holy Cross 37 2nd Half 9:40
Syracuse 54
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TCU 41
Alabama State 77 2nd Half 7:45
TX-Pan American 59
Delaware State 58 2nd Half 7:08
Wake Forest 52
Tennessee St 33 1st Half 0:45
Saint Peters 42
North Carolina 22 1st Half 7:24
Florida 8
Memphis 23 1st Half 5:45
Indiana State 17
Hofstra 28 1st Half 5:30
Jackson State 17
Samford 18 1st Half 9:39
Louisiana Tech 13
Cleveland State 25 1st Half 4:45
Marshall 15
UT Martin 24 1st Half 4:19
Nebraska 28
SE Louisiana 32 1st Half 4:35
Tulane 40
Creighton 7:30 PM
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Murray State 2 1st Half 18:16
Portland 0
North Texas 8:00 PM
Arkansas
UNC Greensboro 8:00 PM
Indiana
Michigan State 8:00 PM
Marquette
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San Jose St
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Northern Colorado
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Montana State
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Saint Louis
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Virginia
North Dakota 9:00 PM
Utah
UCLA 9:30 PM
UAB
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Illinois
Long Beach State 10:30 PM
Washington
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UC Santa Barbara
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 31 FINAL
Western Mich 21
Nebraska 37 FINAL
Iowa 34
Western Ky 67 FINAL
(19) Marshall 66
UCF 16 FINAL
So Florida 0
Houston 35 FINAL
SMU 9
Akron 24 FINAL
Kent State 27
Ball State 41 FINAL
Bowling Green 24
Buffalo 41 FINAL
Massachusetts 21
Toledo 52 FINAL
Eastern Mich 16
Arkansas 14 FINAL
(17) Missouri 21
Navy 42 FINAL
South Alabama 40
(13) Arizona State 35 FINAL
(12) Arizona 42
Stanford 31 FINAL
(9) UCLA 10
(21) Colorado State 24 FINAL
Air Force 27
Virginia 0 1st Qtr 3:09
Virginia Tech 3
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
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TX-San Antonio
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Fla Atlantic
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(23) Clemson
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Iowa State
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Indiana
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Northwestern
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Temple
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Boston College
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Troy
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NC State 66
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Long Island 66
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St Johns 67
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Belmont 58
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UMKC 62
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Penn State 68
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(21) Rutgers 60
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Saint Louis 75
Northeastern 72 FINAL
No Dakota State 79
(10) Maryland 80 FINAL
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Villanova 46 FINAL
Arizona State 51
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Buffalo 77
Boston College 90 FINAL
Brown 80
Wyoming 63 FINAL
Iowa State 84
Weber State 100 FINAL
New Mexico St 97
Texas Tech 53 FINAL
Purdue 69
Washington 81 FINAL
Hartford 70
Fla Gulf Coast 86 FINAL
Clemson 61
Drake 69 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 61
UNC Greensboro 64 FINAL
Navy 71
(15) Nebraska 71 FINAL
UCLA 66
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Hofstra 61
Austin Peay 71 FINAL
Southern Miss 80
(17) Iowa 67 FINAL
Arkansas 77
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Bowling Green 62
Samford 56 FINAL
Georgia State 61
Siena 78 FINAL
Denver 62
Abilene Christian 88 FINAL
George Mason 86
Towson 49 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
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St Marys-CA 80
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Idaho State 73
IUPUI 61 FINAL
Texas Southern 71
East Carolina 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 43
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Sam Houston St 67
Minnesota 54 FINAL
Vanderbilt 71
Kent State 47 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 57
Montana 55 FINAL
Princeton 80
Arizona 65 FINAL
FIU 58
Northern Ky 52 FINAL
Grand Canyon 45
Stetson 57 FINAL
Marist 50
(9) Kentucky 91 1st OT 0:24
Oklahoma 86
American Univ 59 FINAL
Gonzaga 56
UAB 61 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Oral Roberts 38 FINAL
NC A&T 47
Stony Brook 42 FINAL
(8) Duke 72
TCU 46 2nd Half 7:37
Colorado State 57
(5) Stanford 40 2nd Half 5:35
(11) North Carolina 60
Monmouth 55 2nd Half 8:15
Wagner 42
Portland 49 2nd Half 8:14
Nevada 62
Stephen F Austin 47 2nd Half 4:56
UC-Riverside 78
Alcorn State 20 2nd Half 8:33
Rice 47
Lafayette 48 2nd Half 7:54
(12) Louisville 87
Florida 61 2nd Half 7:51
Georgetown 54
Miami-Ohio 34 2nd Half 9:22
Oakland 47
SE Missouri St 49 2nd Half 8:15
Southern Ill 59
Dartmouth 7:00 PM
Cal Poly
Florida A&M 0 1st Half 20:00
SMU 0
Northern Colorado 29 1st Half 3:51
Nebraska Omaha 30
Montana State 23 1st Half 6:46
CS-Northridge 23
(22) Syracuse 27 1st Half 5:05
(1) South Carolina 18
Utah State 8 1st Half 12:13
(13) Baylor 21
Toledo 20 1st Half 7:38
Virginia 19
Christian Brothers 13 1st Half 7:44
Arkansas State 21
South Florida 7:15 PM
Illinois
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
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Wake Forest 7:30 PM
Charlotte
San Jose St 7:30 PM
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San Diego
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New Mexico
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Colorado
Ole Miss 8:30 PM
Utah
Prairie View 8:30 PM
Hawaii
Army 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Cincinnati 9:30 PM
Creighton
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