Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Wild practice

Wild looks to rebound Sunday in Game 2

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: May 3, 2014 - 5:18 PM

UPDATED

Afternoon from the United Center, where the Blackhawks had an off-ice workout and the Wild practiced. The Wild wanted to rectify some things from a Game 1 loss, and it took the ice because there's no morning skate prior to Sunday’s 2 p.m. game on NBC.

The Wild looks like it will make one lineup change Sunday. Justin Fontaine will be back in and reunited on the young checking line with Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula. Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Cody McCormick are also reunited. Stephane Veilleux looks like he will sit.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Andrew Shaw, who got hit hard by Clayton Stoner in last night’s 5-2 Wild loss, is questionable with a lower-body injury. Q says Shaw’s injury isn’t considered long-term. Also, Quenneville said Kris Versteeg was pulled after warmups last night because he was sick.

As I guessed on last night's blog, Yeo was doing some postgame coaching after last night's 5-2 loss and he wasn't nearly as upset with the team's game as he portrayed. He just knows the Blackhawks will be better in Game 2 and he also recalls that the Wild has twice shown in his tenure that when it plays well enough to win in Game 1 and doesn't, it doesn't play well in Game 2 (last year vs. Chicago and last round vs. Colorado).

"Spirits were good," Zach Parise said of the team's mindset. "We have to be better, and we know they’re going to be a lot better. We were in a good mood today. We know we have to make some corrections. That’s the way it goes. I thought we played a good game, really I did. Like I said, they’re an opportunistic team with their chances. They have guys who can score, but all in all I thought we played a pretty good game."

The  Blackhawks feel they can play much better than they did in Game 1. Johnny Oduya said the Blackhawks “got away with one” and it won’t happen again in this series. The Wild pinned Chicago in its end all second period (17-3 shot count plus another 11 shots that missed the mark) and the start of the third. In the third, the Wild rallied back from a 2-0 deficit on goals by Stoner and Kyle Brodziak.

“I think they just outworked us, that’s just the bottom line,” Oduya said. “Hockey’s very simple like that sometimes. You try to complicate things with systems and plays and a bunch of different things. But we talked about it today, too, the passion and fire has got to be there, and the urgency. I think they had a little bit more of that. Obviously, when you’re down a couple goals you’re stepping on the pedal a little bit more, probably. We sat back too much, we can’t do that.”

Added Coach Q: “Our pace wasn’t very quick. Turned pucks over in the middle of the ice, thought in our neutral zone we have to be better. We have to get more involved in the attack, get more support from the back end and come more in groups of five.”

Regardless, star forward Patrick Kane scored an extraordinary goal 1:26 after Brodziak’s tying goal.

It’s the type of goal only Kane can score. I still think Ilya Bryzgalov needs to better cover the short-side (he said today he made a mistake and felt Kane would cut back to the middle), but man, Kane pitchforks a puck in the only place he could at a tight ankle.

“I mean, we saw it a few times this morning, and it’s just amazing to see that goal,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “Not too many players can do that, and Kaner’s done that, we were laughing a little bit about Kaner. That’s a beautiful goal and would be a highlight of probably any one of our careers, but Kaner’s done that probably 10 times. So it’s old hat for him.”

Added Jonathan Toews: “He’s always making plays like that. For us, it’s not something that that’s surprising.”

The Wild wants to figure out a way to get one win out of here to put the pressure on Chicago coming into Minnesota for two. The Blackhawks have won 15 of their past 17 postseason home games dating to 2013, including five straight.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has won five in a row. He has a 1.98 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in seven playoff games this year.

In Bryzgalov’s past five starts dating to the regular season, he is 1-4 with a 4.96 goals-against average and .819 save percentage. He has been pulled twice despite the Wild allowing 24 or fewer shots in four of those starts.

"I feel pretty good that he’s going to play well tomorrow to be honest with you," said Yeo. "I looked at that game closely again looking at that area and I'm not too sure what he could’ve done on too many of those goals that went in. He’s excited for the game tomorrow and he’s putting pressure on himself, but the bottom line is I want everyone to remember that game, to feel that game, but to come back with a little bit more."

No status change on Darcy Kuemper. He's not in Chicago.

Yeo said he talked to Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson, who each have one playoff goal, today:

"That for me was maybe Pommer’s best game that he’s played in the playoffs last game. I had him involved in seven scoring chances himself. There’s a couple one-timers, a couple shots that are a little bit off and quite often you see that with players that are pressing. You try to be a little too precise with your shot. I would like to see him build off that game and hopefully the way that he played, he should know that if he continues to do that, he’ll get rewarded. I talked to Mouls too. Mouls is another guy for sure with getting traded here and the idea that we’re counting on him for offense, similarly I think when you start to press and you start to feel that, you have to make sure that you’re able to push that aside and focus on the things that you need to do in order to make it happen. I felt like he got away from that. Just having the chance to talk to him today and hearing some of the things that he said, I think he’ll be ready to go tomorrow."

A whole lot more in Sunday's paper. Souhan weighed in on No. 26 and 29, I think, while I wrote about Bryzgalov, the adjustments needed in Game 2 (like hitting the net and being better on special teams, etc).

I’ll be on KARE-11 at some time after 1 p.m. Sunday.

Bryzgalov to start Game 1 of the Wild-Blackhawks series

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: May 1, 2014 - 9:18 PM

Good evening back in the Twin Cities. Late blog I know, but a long travel day, followed by late Wild availability because of our long travel day, followed by a lot of writing for the paper.

Basically, just like the Wild had to accelerate its prep for the Blackhawks today, I had to accelerate an abbreviated series preview into the paper.

One day is not a lot of time to prepare for either the team or the stinkin’ ink-stained wretch.

Since it’s so late and our coverage is about to hit startribune.com/wild anyway, I’m just going to leave this blog to bare essentials.

1. I have received lots of questions from Wild fans whom they should follow from the Blackhawks media on Twitter. First, please follow our awesome correspondent, Blake Schuster, who will cover the Hawks for us when the series is in Chicago. His Twitter handle is @schustee19. The Blackhawks’ beat-writing crew may be the best and definitely the coolest peeps in the NHL. Follow, @TramyersCSN, @ChrisKuc, @MarkLazerus and @BrianHedger.

2. No update, predictably, from Mike Yeo on goalie Darcy Kuemper. The only thing we know is Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start Game 1 with John Curry backing him up. Lots more on this in Friday’s paper.

3. Game 7 was the highest-rated telecast ever on Fox Sports North. The Wild’s midweek matchup against the Avalanche generated a 16.4 household rating in the Minneapolis – St. Paul DMA, according to Nielsen Media Research. The previous record, a 15.3 rating, was logged in August of 2010 by the Minnesota Twins (vs. White Sox). In the Minneapolis – St. Paul market, 17,280 households represent one rating point. That means over 283,390 households tuned in for the playoff series finale. The game received a 32 share, signifying 32 percent of the viewing audience in the Twins Cities watched the game. During OT, the telecast reached its peak viewing audience with a 18.3 rating and 49 share, indicating that nearly half of Twin Cities households were tuned in.

4. Single-game tickets for Games 3, 4 and 6 go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets range from $49 to $146.

5. Smattering of Mike Yeo quotes from today’s availability:

Mike Yeo

What did the Avalanche series win do to the Wild’s confidence? “Certainly we learned a lot. We've got a lot of young guys on our team, we've got a lot of young players that are playing in critical positions in our lineup, but I think as much as anything, whether it's guys that haven't had a lot of experience in the playoffs or just us as a group not having a lot of experience in the playoffs, just learning the grind, learning what it takes to go through that mentally, the challenge that you face every day and as much as anything having the confidence of your teammates, knowing that we can fight through adversity and keep battling and keep pushing forward. Certainly we're going to face a lot of similar challenges and we're going to have to feel confident that we'll be ready to handle them.”

What did last year’s series loss to Chicago teach you guys? “Well, it taught us some things, that's for sure. It taught us the level. I remember parts of the (games) last year, where I felt like we were great. We had a great start and all of a sudden we lose the game 5-1, because they have an awful lot of skill over there, they're confident in their game, they stay composed, they stay with it, and then all of a sudden you make a mistake and they capitalize on it. Definitely a real good challenge. We get to move on. We're excited about that and now we get to move on and we have the great challenge for facing the defending Stanley Cup champions."

How much better is your secondary scoring? “We feel that we're deeper than last year. That was one thing we talked about going into the playoffs. I do believe that not having (Pominville) available last year, we didn't have (Heatley) available last year, we lost (Stoner) in his first shift, he had a great series in Round 1 (this year) ... I thought he was very physical and real hard on, especially some of their skill players. But it's a new challenge. This is a team that will challenge you throughout your lineup because of their depth, because of the strength they have from top to bottom. Their top guys are going to challenge your top guys and their depth guys are going to challenge your depth. It's a great challenge and one that we should really look forward to."

Challenge of the goaltending situation? “Ironically, it's not that much of a challenge to be honest with you. I even heard a couple of our players joking about it right now, because it's been an ongoing ... not just this year but it's something we've had to deal with the last couple years. And I give our players a great deal of credit for how they've dealt with it. For one, we've got great depth. Chuck did a great job at the trade deadline, picking up (Bryzgalov) and he's done a great job for us. Obviously we've had, whether it's (Backstrom), (Harding) or (Kuemper), all four of these guys have done a great job at some point during the season for us. But again, I think an awful lot of credit has to go to the guys and the way they play the game in front of them. So, those guys have done the job but our team has played a game in front of them that has given them a chance to be successful too, and that game hasn't changed. It hasn't changed from one goal to the next, and that's where I feel that we've matured a little bit as a team. We're a little more comfortable in our own skin, where we can play against Colorado, we can play against Chicago and there shouldn't be a lot of changes to our game either. We should go out and try to put our best game on the table and be confident with that.”

Does it stink not to get to enjoy first-round win more? "I don't mind that to be honest with you, especially kind of with their youth, with their inexperience. Certainly one thing that we have to guard against is just the high of last game and just making sure we don't have a drop in focus and just sort of the battle and will that we have to bring to the game. I think that if there was a few days in between, I would be a little more concerned, and I'm still concerned about it, but it will still be a good challenge for us to see how we come out (Friday), but I really don't mind to be honest with you."

On Matt Cooke’s return in Game 4: “This is a guy that we really value, because of what he can add in the playoffs. His physicality, I think, could be a factor in this series. His ability to get in on the forecheck and as far as finishing checks and disrupting and just sort of the awareness the other team has when he's on the ice. But probably more importantly than that is just his experience in these situations, his ability to help our young players, his ability to help on the penalty kill as a checking forward, so we'll try to keep him involved here."

Talk Friday!

Wild's ready for Wednesday's big Game 7 against Colorado

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 29, 2014 - 7:39 PM

Good evening from Denver, where I am AGAIN!

I’m going to go out on a limb and call Wednesday’s playoff game a must-win.

Do or die. Win or go home. And any other sports cliché you can think of.

Game 7, oh the drama. This has been a sensational series between the Wild and Colorado Avalanche and finally, one more victory for either team, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks await in the second round.

I’m hearing the series could start Friday night followed by a Sunday afternoon game, so expect a quick turnaround if the Wild is victorious.

Today, down at the Pepsi Center, the Wild had an optional practice. About 15 or 16 guys got on the ice and the rest worked out off of it.

The Avs and the Wild are making their first Game 7 appearances since the Wild beat the Avs in the 2003 first round on Andrew Brunette’s OT winner. That was the 13th and final Game 7 (and game) of Patrick Roy’s goaltending career. Roy’s 13 Game 7s as a player is tied with Scott Stevens for the most ever.

Wednesday night, Roy and Mike Yeo will make their Game 7 debuts. Yeo has coached three Game 7s as a Pittsburgh Penguins assistant (2-1). In the 2009 second round, the Penguins beat Semyon Varlamov, then of the Washington Capitals. In the Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit, Max Talbot, also now with Colorado, scored two goals and the winner in Game 7 for the Cup champion Penguins.

Yeo was also 2-0 as the Houston Aeros’ coach in Game 7s. He also won a Turner Cup in a Game 7 playing in the now-defunct International Hockey League.

“The first thing is just making sure you really embrace the situation,” Yeo said. “What I want is similar to what I feel is going on in Minnesota right now. There’s a lot of excitement building. You could feel it in the rink, you could see it with our fans, you could hear it in the building, just around the city. It’s a good feeling and we want to keep this going. But we also recognize that there’s a tough challenge ahead. You can’t get caught looking ahead, you can’t get caught thinking about what happens if you win this game because we know for us there’s a way we have to go about it. We have to make sure we’re prepared and ready for that.”

Not a lot of Wild players have played in Game 7s. Zach Parise has played in two and Jason Pominville, Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick one each (I’m not including the scratched players; Matt Cooke and Mike Rupp have combined for 13). In fact, only Parise, Pominville, Heatley and Ryan Suter have played past the first round. But as Parise said last night, Parise and Suter didn’t sign in Minnesota to play first-round games.

“You have to experience it, and that’s good,” Yeo said. “We’ve got a lot of young players, we’ve got a lot of guys who we’re trying to develop and grow. We want to have years of success, not a year of success. So get that experience, to go through these things is an important time for our organization. We faced a Game 7 last game, too. That’s one thing for our players to draw upon. You could see there were parts of our game where it was affecting us and you could see there were other parts of the game where our players really rose to the challenge. That third period in particular for me was pretty impressive from our group the way things had gone in the game to come out and dictate and to come out and really play that third period with authority. We would like to see the same thing tomorrow.”

The Avs have been a one-trick pony at home. The top line has killed Minnesota, especially Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied with Parise for tops in the NHL scoring race with 10 points. All 10 points have come in three home games. The third and fourth lines for Colorado don’t have a single point at even-strength.

But Matt Duchene returned in Monday’s 6 loss and will play on the second line Wednesday.

“We have to look at a couple things there for sure,” Yeo said of what Duchene does to the Avs’ power play. “I think that they did a good job spreading us out a little bit, I think that they did a good job creating a little more zone time. Certainly this is a very skilled player and every time he gets the puck in a situation like that, we’re going to be up for a challenge. It’s going to be a good test. And no question that in a Game 7 in a situation like tomorrow, if we can play a very disciplined game, the fewer penalties you can take in a situation like that, obviously you’re giving yourself a much better chance.”

The Wild got some great efforts Monday besides the obvious – Parise. For instance, Nino Niederreiter played his best game in a long time and he said today that it was important for all players to give a little more and be at their best in such a must-win. He says the same thing goes for Wednesday.

Yeo on Nino: “I saw him take his game to another level. It’s a guy like that that we need to play big and we need a guy like that to play big in tomorrow’s game. Kind of the way that they defend in situations and defend in defensive zone coverage, a guy like that, the way that he’s able to move, the way that he’s able to control the puck and tight turns and hang on to it gives us the chance to spend more time in the offensive zone and open up some guys. I thought I saw a lot more of that in his game. I thought I saw him play a physical game, too, just finishing checks and being hard on the forecheck. We’ll be looking for a lot of the same tomorrow.”

Last year, the Wild won a must-win game during Game 48 of the shortened season to face Chicago in the first round. Now, a must-win game in Game 89 to face Chicago in the second round.

“It’s the most meaningful games you’ll ever play,” goalie Darcy Kuemper said. “To be part of it is a lot of fun. You could feel the desperation and intensity on the ice [in Game 6].”

Talk to you after the morning skates, and I’ll be on KARE-11 at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Here’s a couple good lines today:

CAREER GAME 7 PLAYER, GOALTENDER AND COACHING STATISTICS


Colorado        GP      W-L     G       A       Pts.
John Mitchell   2       2-0     0       0       0
Cory Sarich     3       2-1     0       0       0
Maxime Talbot   4       2-2     2       0       2
Alex Tanguay    8       4-4     3       4       7

        GP      Mins    W-L     GAA     SO      Sv%
S. Varlamov     3       140     1-2     2.99    0       .857
J.S. Giguere    1       60      0-1     3.00    0       .880

Semyon Varlamov

Date    Score   Dec.    Shots
4/28/10 MTL 2 at WSH 1  Loss    16
5/13/09 PIT 6 at WSH 2  Loss    18
4/28/09 NYR 1 at WSH 2  Win     15

J.S. Giguere

Date    Score   Dec.    Shots
6/9/03  ANA 0 at N.J. 3 Loss    25

Colorado Head Coach

Patrick Roy (---)

Minnesota       GP      W-L     G       A       Pts.
Keith Ballard   1       1-0     0       0       0
Matt Cooke      7       3-4     2       0       2
Dany Heatley    1       1-0     0       0       0
Cody McCormick  1       0-1     0       0       0
Zach Parise     2       1-1     0       1       1
Jason Pominville        1       0-1     0       0       0
Mike Rupp       6       3-3     1       2       3

        GP      Mins    W-L     GAA     SO      Sv%
Ilya Bryzgalov  2       120     1-1     3.01    1       .917

Date    Score   Dec.    Shots
4/27/10 DET 6 at PHX 1  Loss    50
5/3/06  ANA 3 at CGY 0  Win     22

Minnesota Head Coach

Mike Yeo (---)


COLORADO, MINNESOTA RECORDS IN GAME 7

Colorado Avalanche* (6-6)

4/22/03, Western Conference QF vs. Minnesota (MIN 3 at COL 2, OT)
5/31/02, Western Conference Final vs. Detroit (COL 0 at DET 7)
5/15/02, Western Conference SF vs. San Jose (S.J. 0 at COL 1)
4/29/02, Western Conference QF vs. Los Angeles (L.A. 0 at COL 4)
6/9/01, Stanley Cup Final (N.J. 1 at COL 3)
5/9/01, Western Conference SF vs. Los Angeles (L.A. 1 at COL 5)
5/27/00, Western Conference Final vs. Dallas (COL 2 at DAL 3)
6/4/99, Western Conference Final vs. Dallas (COL 1 at DAL 4)
5/4/98, Western Conference QF vs. Edmonton (EDM 4 at COL 0)
5/2/87, Adams Division Final vs. Montreal (QUE 3 at MTL 5)
5/2/85, Adams Division Final vs. Montreal (QUE 3 at MTL 2, OT)
4/25/82, Adams Division Final vs. Boston (QUE 2 at BOS 1)

* franchise moved from Quebec to Colorado in 1995-96

Minnesota Wild (2-0)

5/8/03, Western Conference SF vs. Vancouver (MIN 4 at VAN 2)
4/22/03, Western Conference QF vs. Colorado (MIN 3 at COL 2, OT)

Wild given 'dose of reality,' looks to respond in must-win Game 6

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 27, 2014 - 4:02 PM

Good afternoon from the X, where my eyes are heavy from an early-morning flight. I have a couple stories to write, so here’s a quick blog with mostly cut and paste quotes and a big apology for not putting a lot more thought into this blog. I just have a ton of work to do and it’s late.

By the way, I’ll be on Rosen’s Sports Sunday tonight on WCCO around 10:30, on KFAN at 9:55 a.m. Monday, probably on with Barreiro later in the day and I’ll be hosting a live chat on startribune.com/wild at 3 p.m.

Please join and come armed with some good questions.

Taking the cue from its coach following Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss, there was no whining about officiating or bad bounces or anything like that today.

Wild players are focused on playing better in a must-win Game 6 on Monday night (8 p.m. puck drop).

“It would be very easy for us to sit here and say we deserve better, whether that’s in the game or in the series,” coach Mike Yeo said. “But that’s a useless feeling to us right now. For me looking back at last game, a play here or a call here or a bounce here, whatever it is, regardless I feel that we still played a game that allowed a bounce or something like that to be the difference in the game. We dropped back a little bit in our level and we have to make sure we bring it up again [Monday].”

The Wild had a very optional practice today, but the players showed for meetings, video and treatment. For the Avalanche, dynamic center Matt Duchene skated today and is a question mark for Monday. If he plays, coach Patrick Roy said Duchene would start the game on the fourth line.

Yeo felt the Wild “started to believe that we were going really good and we got caught looking a little far down the road and they gave us a bit of a dose of reality last game. That’s a good team. I mean they brought it last game. They raised their level, there’s no question. But I think as their level went up, I think ours went down a little bit. So we’ve got to make sure that we crank it back up.”

What’s he mean? “Just a drop in our urgency level in a lot of areas,” Yeo said. “Whether it’s one on one battles or, it’s a fine line to be in your position or to be close to your position. It’s a fine line between being there and almost being there. So when I see our game, it’s not like we were really far off. There’s just another level to our urgency that wasn’t quite there that we have to make sure we bring.”

Yeo also said, “We didn't play big enough last game. I hope that we're ready to bring it tomorrow.”

On the officiating, obviously, there was the missed offside and some calls and non-calls where the Wild seemed to get the short shrift. I emailed Director of Officiating Steve Walkom and I haven’t heard back from him yet, but this isn’t like other sports where maybe the league issues a statement the next day if mistakes were made.

Yeo on the officiating (only because he was asked): “Yeah, better left alone. I don’t want to dwell on last game. Obviously, there was things that went on in the game last game, but I don’t think it does me any good, I don’t think it does our group any good, to dwell on that, to focus on that. I’m sure we’ll have a little talk with the supervisor in the morning, but to me I’m just ready to move on. I want to play the game [Monday].  I’m excited for the game. And I think our fans are going to really bring it. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be exciting. It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great.”

Lost in the shuffle last night were the quality games of Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley. Brodziak was scratched in Game 3 after a tough Game 1 and 2. Heatley was scratched in Games 1 and 2. Brodziak scored a goal last night, Heatley assisted on two.

Yeo: “Both guys handled things the way that they needed to, and this is what you’re looking for, contributions from guys throughout the lineup. So to see those guys go out and play the way that they did, for sure that’s great. And for me, since Heater has come back into the lineup, every game he’s continually gotten better, and I think that’s a real positive for us. This guy has got experience this time of year, knows the grind, knows what it takes to make sure that you’re prepared, and this is a guy who’s out on the ice right now, making sure that he’s ready to go for tomorrow’s game again. So likewise with Brodzy, I thought that line gave us some real good minutes, and we’ll need them again tomorrow.”

And here’s the laziest move of em all. Here’s Colorado’s quotes today from correspondent Michael Kelly.

PARENTEAU

(Roy talked with you after Game 4) That’s a talk I needed to have with him. It’s tough when you come back from injuries like that. It was nice to talk to him. He told me he was believing in me. It was good to have that chat for sure.

(were you playing tentative) Yeah, I was a little more tentative for sure with my knee and stuff. At the end of the day it was coming down to competing more and to play with an edge a little more. It’s playoff time and I think I did that last night and it made a big difference in my game.

(your line was better) We skated more, we competed more. In Minny it was tough because we couldn’t generate much offensively. Yesterday it was nice to see our line skate, make some plays and go to the net harder.

(Got some goals on Kuemper) I don’t think we tested him much in Minny. He had it pretty easy. We made life a little harder on him. We have to keep doing that. We’ve got to bring this energy, this confidence we had at home we have to bring to Minnesota tomorrow night. It’s a big challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it.

(can close it out) It’s exciting. At the end of the day that’s the main goal, to beat them four games and we have a chance to do it on the road. We’re going to try to bring the same energy.

(how much has the team grown from last trip to Minny) We’ve learned from those two games in Minny. No one was proud of what happened or felt good after those two games. That’s a feeling we don’t want to live again.

ROY

(latest on Duchene) The tough part right now is he hadn’t a chance to have a full practice with us. He had a morning skate yesterday, today it’s more shooting, more for the goalies. Tomorrow he’s going to have another morning skate and we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. He seems to react well to the treatment, he looks good but like I said before we’re going to be patient and tomorrow we’ll see how he feels after the morning skate and we’ll make a decision after that.

(Tanguay) It’s exactly how it was supposed to be. They said four months, he’s doing well but he’s not ready for contact. Same thing with Dutchy, the fact that he hasn’t been in contact sometimes slow down the process.

(tough for Dutchy to jump in at this stage of playoffs) You can’t jump in and play the same way you were before you got hurt. Slowly start on the fourth line, power play and then you’re going to see it, you’re going to smell it he’s ready for more minutes.

(he’ll want to play) On this one it’s not my decision and it’s not his decision. It’s our team doctors’ and trainers. Matt and Scotty will let me know when they think is the right moment. They’re the ones that are going to make the decision.

(up 3-2 factor into your decision) It is. We said all along we’re going to be smart with him. He’s a talented player, he’s a great hockey player. He wants to play. If it’s up to him he’d be in the lineup tomorrow but it’s not the way it works here.

(difference from Game 4 to 5) A lot of things were different. We had a better forecheck and every forcheck we finished our checks. That was very important. We also protected the pucks better offensively, which meant we were better with our one-on-one battles. Defensively we did a good job. We tracked better and positioning were better. Two goals they scored we had broken sticks. I thought we competed well.

(ever want to tell player to go back to bench for a new stick) No. It’s still better if you’re there. I would have loved to have Granlund go to the bench in Game 4 but he blocked two of them with a broken stick. When you get the puck don’t be afraid to ice the puck. Even if you can’t change and you’re tired it’s better having five players with sticks than having one without a stick. We had a couple of chances to ice the puck and we could not doing it.

(Special teams) We were not necessarily happy with our power play in Minny but yesterday I was. I thought it was very positive. I thought we had some threat, some chances. I thought we moved the puck better, we brought the puck to areas where we wanted to be. I think we’re close to getting a goal. Hopefully it’ll be tomorrow in Minny. We’re doing a lot of good things. They scored a power play goal, Suter was the first one, tipped and it went in. Second one, Pominville took a shot, it hit the partition, came back in front of the net, Coyle open net. You look at ours, empty net. Both teams are playing really well shorthanded. Both teams are doing a good job killing penalties. Then I look further in other series. You look at Chicago who has tremendous amount of skills before last game they had only two power play goals. To score goals you need breaks and you need to be in the right place. Yesterday was much better.

(played top forwards a lot early) It was important for us to have the momentum. That’s what we wanted. I thought we had a good start, we had a penalty and they got the momentum back. When that happened you want to get it back. You’re at home.

(Duchene will start on fourth line) If he does play that’s the plan.

(Game 6) I’m not going to guarantee any results but we know how it’s going to be over there. We know how their fans are going to react, we know how they’re going to play, there’s not going to be any surprise. If they beat us they beat us. We’ll be ready for that. We’re going to have to play exactly how we did yesterday.

We scored four on their goalie yesterday. He came in midway in the second period in Game 2, he played really well and then we could not score in Game 3 and it started to get into our head. Now scoring four goals yesterday we started to have better looks and we start to know we can beat this guy, which is very positive going there. It’s a big difference in Game 6.

(Parenteau) I had a good conversation with P.A. after Game 4. Confidence comes with how hard you’re going to work. If you work hard confidence is going to get there. You can go to Wal-Mart and you can’t buy confidence in the business of hockey because they don’t sell confidence at Wal-Mart. If you move your feet, and if he’s moving like he did yesterday, he’s a smart hockey player, he has a high IQ and he’s capable of having an IQ by playing a faster pace. That was a really good game for him. That line was very good yesterday. O’Reilly, McGinn and Parenteau had good puck possession. They had really good chances.

(team’s ability to come back in final minutes) There’s a lot of confidence. We’ve been in a lot of situations where we pulled the goalie and we’re confident we can score there. That gives hope. It reminds me of ’93 when we started going into overtime. You win one game, then you win a second one and a third one and fourth one and fifth one. All of sudden you’re playing the last eight-10 minutes of the third period and all you hope is you get to overtime because you know you’re going to win there. It’s the same thing for us. We knew if we could kill the penalty we would have a good look at some shots and a good chance to score a goal to tie the game. We almost scored in Game 4 and we did in Game 1.

(MacKinnon) What’s impressive capable playing him over 21 minutes or 22 minutes. There’s not too many 18 year olds that you’re capable of putting on the ice that many minutes in a playoff game, especially in crunch time. Earlier in the season I was afraid to put him in the end of periods. Now I want him there. He’s playing so well right now.

O’REILLY

(why does this team keep scoring late goals) We’ve always been a resilient team. We have that belief in ourselves we can score goals at key times. When we know that, on the bench there’s no panic. We had good energy, we felt we were going to give us a chance to come back, sure enough we did. Going into OT with that momentum was a big reason we won.

(your line) Our energy was a bit better. We still maintained the right positioning and we worked together a bit better. We’re trying to win games before but couldn’t get anything going. Last night we were more consistent in our system and we got pucks deep and we were consistent on our forecheck. When we can do that that’s when we generate scoring chances.

(Duchene might play) If he is back it’s a huge addition for us. He’s been one of our best players all year and for me he helps create offense playing together on a line. He brings so much to the table it makes it difficult for them.

(confidence for Game 6) I think we have a lot of confidence but we’ve left (Game 5) behind and we’re in preparation mode. It’s not going to get any easier.

(mood on bench when Varly pulled) We’re confident. We’ve always been smart in that time. We know we have two minutes or a minute and a half where we don’t need to force plays. We can stay calm, work the puck on the perimeter and wait for them to get out of position and then we attack. We don’t need to rush. We have that calmness that anyone on the ice can make a good play when it’s needed. We trust each other.


 

MacKinnon

It's still exciting, it was a big goal for the team. It was very exciting to share with the guys, on the ice seeing their faces after we scored that goal. but we want to kind of forget about it and move on for tomorrow night. We definitely need that win.

They played very well against us (in Minny). We need to do a better job of generating offense. we've been a very good road team all year so I don't think we should be discouraged after a couple bad road games. It's going to be a tough task for us. They're going to come out hard and be very desperate. Their season's on the line. For us, we have to have the same mentality.

(Saturday first time outshot them)

That gives us a lot of confidence. We had a slow start again in terms of shots. The first half of the first period I think we had two shots, so we have to generate more early. We found our legs and generated some more opportunities, but we definitely need more than 12 shots like we did (Game 4). 

(in position to clinch)

It'll feel a little different tomorrow at the morning skate, maybe a little quieter. It's tough to say. It's business time tomorrow and we have to be ready to go.

(on Duchene)

we need him. Plain and simple we can't replace a guy like that. he'sone of our best players, our top scorer. It makes a difference every time he plays. If not, hopefully we can win for him and then he'll be ready to go in Round 2.                                     

Wild hits the road; updated Avalanche quotes

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 25, 2014 - 8:12 PM

UPDATE: Left wing Matt Cooke has decided not to appeal his 7-game suspension. He doesn't want any more distractions for the Wild in the playoffs. 

The Wild had a very optional practice this morning and flew to Denver, where it plays Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.

So, we know Game 6 at the X will be an elimination game Monday night. The only question is whether it will be Minnesota with its back against the wall or Colorado.

The road team hasn’t won a game in this series yet. If the Wild wants to advance to the second round, it will need to change that.

“Obviously the next game is going to be a big one,” coach Mike Yeo said. “The team that wins that is going to be a little more in the driver’s seat here, so they have two games at home and we’re going to have to win a game in their building. I would certainly like to make that be the next game.”

Yeo said it’s important the Wild doesn’t hang its hat on its two home victories.

“Our start next game will be very important. We’re not going to have our crowd there to build off,” Yeo said. “I’m confident with our group that it’ll be ready to dictate and play the same type of game.”

The Wild has outshot the Avs 143-94 in the series and 78-34 in St. Paul, but it has lost two games in Denver in two games that looked very different than the type of hockey played at home. The Wild needs to figure out a way to bottle up its defensive game and bring it to Denver.

Obviously, two big differences is Erik Haula will be centering the third line and Darcy Kuemper will be starting in goal. Kuemper leads the NHL with a 0.40 goals-against average and .979 save percentage and is one of five goalies in the expansion era (post 1967) that has given up one goal in his first two career playoff starts. The second, by the way, was Wild goalie coach Bob Mason in 1987 against my Islanders.

“We’re on the road, there’s matchups that we would like to get, and there’s going to be matchups that we won’t be able to get,” Yeo said.

Yeo repeated that he has no problem playing the lines centered by Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund or Haula against any line.

“Those guys at different points of the season have played against the best centermen in the league and have done the job,” Yeo said. “I really believe regardless of who we’re playing, we can have anybody go out in that situation if our team’s playing a certain way because we don’t play the game as a one-man unit.”

He said the Wild can’t assume the next game will start the same way as at home. It’s up to the Wild to “make it happen,” not expect that it’ll be able to pick up right where it left off.

“We have to expect a hard push from them,” Yeo said. “We’re still playing the team that won the division. I look every day and the NHL’s announcing award winners, and everyday there’s a Colorado Avalanche player that’s part of those nominees (So far -- O’Reilly, Lady Byng; MacKinnon, Calder; Varlamov, Vezina). It helps remind us that we’re playing a very skilled group.”

The Wild’s penalty kill will have to continue to be great. It is a league-best 14 for 15 (one empty-net goal on the PK) at 93.3 percent. This is against the league’s fifth-best power play in the regular season, and the Wild was the NHL’s 27th-ranked penalty kill.

Mike Rupp, who won’t play Saturday, and suspended Matt Cooke aren’t going on the trip. No word yet if Cooke has decided to appeal. I’ll update when there’s definitive word. Again, he can’t play during an appeals process anyway.

Follow our correspondent, Michael Kelly, on Twitter at @berge19. He said Matt Duchene skated today, but Patrick Roy said he’s not going to play Game 5.

Update:

Here are some quotes from the Avalanche side, supplied by Michael Kelly in Denver:

Patrick Roy, on what the Avs offense needs to do after a terrible outing in Minnesota: "We also played a little different. we didn't have the same jump, we didn't come with speed, we didn't get pucks deep and things like that. They made us look slow and kept us to the outside. They did a good job of doing those things to slow us down and certainly they can get their matchups right in their arena."

On getting experience for younger players: "It's the first playoffs for a lot of us. Maybe the first couple games in the Pepsi Center, you're playing with excitement and you're excited and you're just going out there and feeding off the crowd. Once you get on the road you realize they want this just as bad as we do. It's certainly not easy to win on the road. You have to kind of keep the same game as you do at home and play the same way and that's certainly not easy. They certainly make it tough on us and they keep us to the outside. We have to learn, to find a way. I think the positive for us is even though with how many shots we had, it's still a one-goal game and we're still in it right until the end. I guess that's a positive."

Paul Stastny on what the Avs learned in Minnesota: "No matter who you’re playing everyone wants to win the same way. You have to compete and you have to be hungry as you can. Just because a team’s down 2-0 doesn’t mean they’re going to sit back, they’re going to give it their all. Maybe that first game they came at us hard and the second game we feel a little better, but still we have to create more offensively. We need more puck possession. On the bright side, it’s 2-2. Last night it was a little disappointing but today we regrouped, forget about yesterday get it back to home ice and it’s a best of 3."

Erik Johnson on fixing the offense: "As D, we haven’t been as clean in our exits from the D zone. We have to have more poise as a group. When we’re playing well and having success we’re getting the forwards the pucks in stride. We’ve been a little too stagnant, maybe a little too unsure to make the right play. We’re looking a little too long for the perfect play. As D we have do a better job of making our forwards’ lives a little bit easier in transition. When they get the puck with speed their so dangerous so as a group we have to be better with that.

"Clearly we were outplayed in Game 3; Game 4 was a little bit better. The only thing that’s disappointing is you look at how great Varly has played and you wish you could have popped a few more goals by Kuemper. As a group we’ve been resilient all year, we haven’t let anything let us down. That’s not going to change. We’ve had no fear all season long and there’s no reason for us to have it now."

Roy on the lack of scoring: "It’s not just shots on net, it’s scoring chances. You can finish a game with 50 shots on net but if you end up the night with six scoring chances are you better off? You’re sometimes counting on bad goals to win a game. Bad goals happen but they don’t happen every night. What we’re looking more from us is generate more scoring chances. It was like 14-8 puck poession. They spent 14 minutes in our end we spent eight in the other end. Clearly that’s not enough. Normally you’re around 11 or 12, it’s pretty balanced. It’s clear they dominated us.

"When we put our plan together for the playoffs it’s not to go 16-0. How many teams have done that? None? I’m surprised to hear that. I thought there were a hundred teams. The 2-2 doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s how we’re going to bounce back is what I want to see tomorrow."

Varlamov: "I don't want to talk about myself, how I play, how I'm feeling. I can tell about the team. Play solid hockey, right now playing very well. We just need to keep going, continue to fight. It's not going to be easy to beat Minnesota. We knew that before the series that it was going to be a tough series. Continue to play well and fight."

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