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The Wild Beat

Wild still seeking first win, returns to road with noon game at Ottawa

KANATA, Ontario – The Wild’s last venture on the road wasn’t successful, with the team losing all three games.

And the circumstances have only gotten tougher as it begins a three-game trip Monday afternoon against the Senators sitting in a 0-4 hole to start the season.



“If you do the process right, and you don’t get lost with the process, once you have some success, you’ll keep building on that success,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

After falling 7-4 to the Penguins Saturday at home, the Wild could debut another new lineup Monday but some of the change may be a result of injury.

Winger Mats Zuccarello didn’t practice Sunday, and his status is up in the air as he deals with bumps and bruises.

If call-up Gerald Mayhew draws in after getting summoned from the minors Sunday, it would be his NHL debut.

With three goals and three assists in the American Hockey League, Mayhew is Iowa’s leading scorer.

Still, the Wild is waiting for its top-six to make a major impact.

To try to get those lines going, Boudreau added sparkplug Ryan Hartman to the first unit with winger Kevin Fiala and center Eric Staal. And he shifted Jason Zucker from the left side to the right alongside Zach Parise and captain Mikko Koivu.

“You can only go through so many things,” Boudreau said. “Then you’ve just got to play. Whatever position you’re in, right wing, left wing, play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, and then things start turning around.”

Projected lineup:

Kevin Fiala-Eric Staal-Ryan Hartman

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Zucker

Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin

Gerald Mayhew-Victor Rask-Jordan Greenway

Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin-Jared Spurgeon

Carson Soucy-Brad Hunt

Alex Stalock

Key numbers:

9-6: How the Wild fared in the first game of a back-to-back last season.

7-4: The Wild’s record in day games in 2018-19.

3: Points in defenseman Brad Hunt’s last two games.

5-1-1: Career record for goalie Alex Stalock vs. the Senators.

4-1-2: Performance by the Wild in its last seven trips to Ottawa.

About the Senators:

Like the Wild, the Senators also got off to a rough start by dropping their first three games. They finally won Saturday, edging the Lightning 4-2. After acquiring forward Vladislav Namestnikov from the Rangers last week, Namestnikov made an immediate impact. In two games, he has two goals and two assists. Winger Brady Tkachuk also has a team-high two goals.

Postgame: Defensive woes exposed in Wild's home-opening loss to Penguins

Amid a franchise-worst start for the Wild, a significant portion of the blame has been placed on a familiar problem: its lack of scoring prowess.

In its first three losses, the team was averaging just two goals a game – a tepid push that helps explain why it has yet to corral a win.

But after its latest slip, another trouble spot came into focus and it’s one that’s been lingering all along.

And that’s the miscues in its own end, a disconnect with the defense that was exposed in a 7-4 drubbing by the Penguins Saturday to spoil the Wild’s home opener at Xcel Energy Center.

“We work on defensive zone coverage every day,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s what I just finished saying in there. I said, ‘Look it, we’ve given up 21 goals in four games – for a team that takes a lot of pride since I’ve been here on being one of the better defensive teams for the most part.’ Today we finally got more than two goals, but goal scoring is not going to be our forte.”

What could help explain why the Wild has veered from this identity is the aforementioned goal shortage.

Because the team is struggling to produce, it’s getting caught looking for what Boudreau called “breaks” instead of working intelligently to create those opportunities.

Down 1-0, the Wild’s defensive posture was blown open by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby when he cruised in for a breakaway finish.

“This team, since I’ve been here, we’ve always [had] solid defensive-zone coverage,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “... I think we need to fix that, obviously. I think we need to win games right now 1-0, 2-0. That’s got to be our mindset, our mentality going into the game. The goals will come if we bear down defensively and play the way we’re supposed to play in our zone. Everything else usually takes care of itself.”

Tightening up in its own end won’t be the only priority as the Wild embarks on a three-game road trip next week through Eastern Canada.

Goals against have come in succession in each of the team’s four losses, a costly trend.

Pittsburgh reclaimed control of the game Saturday when it scored three in 2 minutes, 28 seconds. Two of those came off what Boudreau described as bad rebounds from goalie Devan Dubnyk.

“It's just tough right now because one goal goes in then it seems like when a team gets two goals ahead of us, we get a little bit more negative and get down and that's something that we need to stop,” winger Marcus Foligno said.

Also, more worker-bee goals are needed.

The first Wild tally was a deflection, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon had the second by pinching in deep.

“You see the guys that are getting chances are just working,” Spurgeon said. “That's all you have to do is work and be simple and things will come. I think we hope it's going to be easier than it is, and that's not the way it works.”

The best examples of this style are Foligno and winger Ryan Hartman.

Boudreau said both were the best Wild players Saturday, and they were recognized for their efforts by being on the ice late in the game as the Wild vied to pull closer with its net empty.

“They deserved to be out there,” Boudreau said. “That’s what it’s gotta be. It’s gotta be a reward system. This theme of all in only works if everybody’s all in for the right reason. That’s what it’s gotta be or we won’t be successful.”

Final, 10/14 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 1-4 0 0 2 2
Ottawa 1-4 0 0 0 0

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