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The Wild Beat

Boudreau: "It seems like we're afraid to win''

It was a grim scene in the Wild’s locker room late Friday, after a 4-3 loss at Winnipeg. The team glumly packed up for a late-night charter flight to Calgary, where it will play Saturday and try to move on from another costly third-period stumble.

Coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out that the Wild has led or been tied in the third period in all five of its games. It has won only one of those and gained points in two others, with an overtime loss to Columbus and a shootout loss at Carolina. Friday, the Wild gave up the tying goal with 32.7 seconds left in the second period and mustered only four shots in the third, as the Jets’ Blake Wheeler—the Plymouth native and former Gopher—scored the winner with 6:46 left.

“In the last 10 minutes of the first (period), we started to get our legs,’’ Boudreau said of the slow-starting Wild, who were down 2-0 in the first 10 minutes. “We took the play to them a little bit, and I thought we took the play to them until we got the lead.

“Then, it seems like we’re afraid to win. Because all five games, we’ve been tied or ahead with less than 10 minutes to go. And you look at our record, and it’s not good enough. When you’re that close in every game, no matter who’s in the lineup, and you come away with nothing, we’ve got to do some soul-searching.’’

Other notes from Friday’s game:

--The latest forward to be injured is Landon Ferraro, who saw five shifts and 3:30 of ice time in the first period before he was sidelined. Ferraro has a hip flexor injury. The Wild didn’t have any additional details about the severity, but it sounded as if Ferraro definitely won’t play Saturday.

Boudreau said team officials would discuss the situation on their postgame flight to Calgary. Defenseman Gustav Olofsson was the lone healthy scratch Friday, and the easy solution—though an imperfect one—would be to move him to wing for Saturday’s game. It seems improbable that Mikael Granlund will play Saturday, since Boudreau didn’t mention him.

“I don’t know if that’s the answer,’’ he said of moving Olofsson. “For a young man in the NHL who’s never played wing before, I don’t think it’s a fair situation for him. We’ll think about it.’’

--Boudreau didn’t want to cast too much blame on the defensive duo of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin, though they struggled. Brodin was on the ice for three Winnipeg goals, and Dumba was on for two. Both made significant mistakes; both were out of position on the Jets’ second goal, and on Winnipeg’s winner, Wheeler beat Dumba on his way to the Wild net.

“I think you could find fault with a whole bunch of guys,’’ Boudreau said. “On (Wheeler’s goal), we put Erik (Staal) out there to have two centers on the faceoff; we don’t get the puck out, they come back in and beat (Dumba and Brodin) again.

“These are guys we rely on. We can sit here and talk about (Zack Mitchell and Luke Kunin and Ferraro), but those guys are not making the mistakes. It’s our guys that are supposed to be our better players that are making our mistakes when we’re losing games.’’

Boudreau wants to see better defense from Wild

After starting the season with some large gaps between games, the Wild embarks on a much busier stretch beginning Friday at Winnipeg. The game kicks off the team’s first back-to-back set of the season, with the road trip finishing Saturday in Calgary.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said the Wild will have only three real practice days between now and early December, after holding three practices last week during a five-day break in the schedule. Much of the time was spent tuning up a leaky defense that has surrendered 15 goals in four games. With the lineup missing scorers such as Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise, Boudreau said it’s more important than ever to make sure the defense is on point.

“It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup, you can play defense,’’ Boudreau said. “When you’re missing skilled players, it’s a little more difficult to score, so you have to play better defense.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot. This is a team that year in and year out is probably known way more for their defense than their offense. They took great pride in it. Last year, until March 1st I think, we were first (in the NHL) by a good margin in defense. I think they do take pride in it, so when you get three of four games with four goals against, it’s tough.’’

Boudreau said it’s a game-time decision whether Granlund, who is recovering from a groin injury and practiced Thursday, will play. Devan Dubnyk is expected to start in net.

Winnipeg won three in a row before Tuesday’s loss to Columbus but also has suffered from some sketchy defense. The Jets are allowing 3.83 goals per game, though they have played much better in support of Connor Hellebuyck than Steve Mason. Hellebuyck, expected to start Friday, has a goals-against average of 2.11 in four games. Mason has played three games with a GAA of 5.96.

Plymouth native Blake Wheeler has a team-high six assists for the Jets this season and has 20 points in 26 games against the Wild. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien of Roseau has returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a lower-body injury. Byfuglien has 29 points in 35 games against the Wild, including four game-winning goals. Defenseman Tucker Poolman, who has played three games, also is from Minnesota (East Grand Forks).

Matt Hendricks of Blaine has not played a regular-season game after injuring his foot while blocking a shot in a preseason game.      

Final, 10/20 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 1-2-2 1 2 0 3
Winnipeg 4-3 2 1 1 4

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