After the Wild had squandered a two-goal lead and lost in overtime to Detroit a few days ago, coach Mike Yeo lauded his team's effort while noting some execution breakdowns. But, a day after coming out flat in a loss to Pittsburgh, Yeo sounded a little different.
I was at practice today because Mr. Russo was headed to Edmonton for tomorrow's game. Given the schedule the Wild has ahead of it, Yeo ran a relatively brief practice, one focused heavily on breaking out of the team's defensive zone and gaining speed into the offensive zone. While he might have been tempted to work the team rather harshly given the loss to Pittsburgh, Yeo kept the bigger picture in sight.
Yeo said the players had a bit of snarl to them on the ice, which is to be expected. And they appeared focused on the ice, even if there were a couple moments of fun. At one point Yeo and Brett Bulmer dropped gloves and pretended to go at it. "Well, he made a mistake in the D-zone," Yeo joked. "And we had to fix that."
But seriously, folks: After this loss, Yeo wasn't so pleased with his team's effort, describing the way they began the first quarter as "sleepwalking."
As for the lapses the team displayed at different points in the game? "For me, effort is a lot more than skating in a straight line," Yeo said. "It's the second effort, and third effort you show me. If you're on a forecheck and they move the puck somewhere else, do you say, 'My job is done now?' Or do you stay on the hunt, keep pursuing and keep tracking, do whatever you can to create a turnover? It's jumping on a loose puck and taking a hit to make a play. it's making a hard play, winning your one-on-one battles. And I don't think it was at the level that we needed last night."
Fairly strong words, I'd say. Perhaps more interesting was the Yeo went on to say he expected these lapses early in the season. Yeo feels he is trying to change the culture of the team, and knows it doesn't happen overnight. I'll write more about this later, but he was quite specific about the issue. "To think you can come in and flip a switch? It doesn't happen," he said. "You're changing habits. We're asking a lot. But that kind of stuff, more than anything, takes time. But it will come. I know that. I know it."
Yeo had the same four lines together that started the game Tuesday, with one switch. He has first-line wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi playing on their strong sides. Heatley shoots left, but has been playing the right wing. Setoguchi shoots right but has been playing to the left of Mikko Koivu. Some players like to play that way, as it makes it easier for some to get a shot off when skating from the wing towards the slot, for example.
"I think it's a little easier if they're on their strong side to get to their game and to execute coming up the ice," Yeo said. "We'll see if that helps a little."
In other news:
--Defenseman Greg Zanon was held out of practice after tweaking a groin muscle Tuesday. But Yeo expects Zanon to be fine and to play in Edmonton.
--Yeo said he and his staff were contemplating lineup changes, but wouldn't divulge them. Ditto for the goaltending situation.
That's about all. Have a good day.