With three days between Monday's 2-1 overtime loss in Colorado and Friday's game at Arizona. the Wild's Western road trip took a short detour home. The team practiced Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, spending most of the one-hour session working on its power play and on its three-on-three execution.
Monday's loss was the fifth in six overtime games this season for the Wild. It is one of six NHL teams with only one overtime victory, and its five OT losses are second only to Vancouver's seven. The Wild also is one of eight teams that hasn't had a game go to a shootout yet this season.
Much of the emphasis Tuesday was on the tricky business of line changes during three-on-three play. Monday, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu both had been stranded on the ice for long shifts when the Avs' John Mitchell scored the winner. Coach Mike Yeo said the team passed up one opportunity to get a change because it would have given Colorado a three-on-two--a decision he was second-guessing later.
"We're saying, 'Man, we probably should have (changed),''' Yeo said. "Then I look back at an earlier game at St. Louis, when we did change on the three-on-two, in that very same situation. And (the Blues) scored on the three-on-two.
"We've seen a lot of teams give up goals and chances on line changes. That's the reality. It's something we have to continue to be mindful of, continue to try and get better at. It's going to be hard to perfect. It's in real time, and there are hockey plays going on.''
The Wild did its best to replicate those conditions in Tuesday's practice. Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle both said players have to be ready to change early, before they are in situations where they are exhausted and have no opportunity to get off the ice.
"I don't think anyone thought too much about the line changes at the beginning of the season,'' Coyle said. "At least, I didn't, until we started doing it in practice and then games.
"It’s a huge part of (overtime). You've got to be aware and have good focus. It's a thinking game out there, and you've got to be ready for it. We're starting to figure it out. It's taken a little more time, but we’ll get there.''
Other notes from today's practice:
--Yeo said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who left Saturday's victory over the Avs because of a groin strain, wanted to practice Tuesday. He was told it would be best for him to rest. "We felt with a day off tomorrow, (Tuesday's practice) wasn't going to do him any good,'' Yeo said. "It wasn't going to make him a better goaltender. I'm pretty sure that having an extra day of rest would give him a better chance to heal up. I have a real strong feeling we'll see him Thursday for practice.''
--Center Tyler Graovac (core muscle surgery) participated in all phases of practice. There's no timetable for his return, but Yeo said he is progressing. "He's skating well,'' the coach said. "The next step is to get in some more contact drills.''