With the weight of a five-game losing streak lifted off its shoulders, the Wild showed up in high spirits Sunday for a practice at Tria Rink. Even the players who lost a mini-competition at the end of the workout laughed and smiled as they did push-ups on the ice, thanks to a mood-changing victory Saturday at Winnipeg.
Coach Bruce Boudreau, though, was ready to turn the page.
Despite beating the Jets 3-1, the Wild still has some ground to make up after winning only seven of its past 20 games. Even a standout performance against a Central Division nemesis won’t be meaningful if the team can’t string together some similar results, adding extra importance to Monday’s game against Pittsburgh at Xcel Energy Center.
As it was in Winnipeg, the Wild needs to be sharp throughout the lineup to beat the Penguins, who are 8-2 in their past 10.
“If we don’t keep the game at the level we have to play to succeed, we’ll be in trouble,’’ Boudreau said. “We can’t afford at this stage to win one, lose one. We’ve got to put together a little bit of a run at some point. Whether we can do it or not is yet to be seen.
“I don’t want to make a real big case of [Saturday’s victory], because it’s got to be done on a consistent, everyday basis. We’ve gone through, ‘Hey what a great game,’ then the next game, it’s not so great. We’ve got to put it together and see if we can’t do the same thing [Monday].’’
Defenseman Nick Seeler, who did not play Saturday because of an upper-body injury, practiced Sunday. He is listed as day-to-day, and Boudreau said he is unsure if Seeler will be ready to play Monday.
Even if Seeler does return, Matt Bartkowski — who was recalled from Iowa to fill in on the third defensive pairing — could remain with the Wild as a seventh defenseman. The team has been without an extra defenseman since Matt Dumba tore his right pectoral muscle Dec. 15 against Calgary. Boudreau said he doesn’t know what management plans to do, but he was happy with Bartkowski, who scored the Wild’s first goal Saturday and added one hit and one blocked shot in 10 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time.
“It felt good,’’ Bartkowski said. “That’s the way you want to draw it up: Chip in offensively, then the team wins. I’m just taking it day by day.’’
A good start
While the Wild was breaking its slump in Winnipeg, forward Joel Eriksson Ek was doing the same in Iowa. Playing for the first time since he was sent to the Wild’s AHL affiliate last week, Eriksson Ek scored two goals in Iowa’s 3-1 victory Saturday over Milwaukee: one on the power play in the first period, and the game-winner in the third period.
Boudreau hoped some time in the minors would help Eriksson Ek regain his scoring touch. In 27 games with the Wild this season, the forward has one goal and three assists. One good game, though, will not assure his quick return to the Twin Cities.
“Let’s keep him down there, and let’s let him do it again and again and again, so it’s not a one-time thing,’’ Boudreau said. “We don’t have a timetable.’’
Marked (up) man
Jordan Greenway sported a couple of fresh stitches on his right cheek Sunday. The Wild forward was struck by a deflected puck in the first period Saturday, leaving him with swelling, an angry red abrasion and a cut.
The pain only lasted about 30 seconds, Greenway said, and he stayed in the game. But it did require him to be sewn up for the second time in two weeks. He had just had stitches removed from a cut lip caused by an accidental high stick from Eriksson Ek on Dec. 13.
“If I get another one, I might have to bring back the cage,’’ Greenway joked, referring to the face protector used in college. “[Saturday’s injury] is OK. It’s not that bad.’’