NEW YORK – The Wild didn’t have one of its famous closed-door, players-only meetings. Mike Yeo didn’t crack any sticks over the boards and storm off the ice in any Broadway theatrics during Wednesday’s morale-boosting, workmanlike practice at Madison Square Garden.
The Wild coach said the only antidote to all this losing is positivity and hard work.
“We’re a group that has the character to get through it,” Yeo said. “But that said, it’s not easy. There’s only one way, and that’s to work. We have to work and earn that confidence back in our game and that trust that when you do things the right way, you’ll get rewarded.”
Zach Parise is doing his best to buy in. But, as Yeo said, it’s not easy.
The Wild leading goal-scorer’s postgame press scrums are becoming painful and repetitive. He has few answers, and the read-between-the-lines frustration is unmistakable.
After Wednesday’s practice, he admitted as much. After two previous seasons of the Wild being forced to battle through and overcome midseason swoons, Parise said this one feels different.
“It’s been really frustrating, beyond frustrating at times,” Parise said. “It’s been hard, it’s been really hard the last couple months.
“Collectively we’re all trying to get out of it. It’s just been … I don’t know how to describe it. It’s been hard. It’s been an absolute grind to score and to get points, and then on top of that, losing a lot, it’s just wearing on guys.”
Parise has one goal, no assists and is minus-9 in the past eight games. At times, he almost seems manic on the ice as he desperately tries to score and help the Wild escape its losing ways.
But that often has led to him getting out of position and committing turnovers.
“Quite often when you’re dealing with players that are highly competitive like that, what makes them so great can also be something that takes away from their game,” Yeo said. “It’s the intensity, it’s the emotion they bring night after night after night, when things aren’t going well, that can take away a lot from the focus, that can lead to a lot more frustration.”
In Wednesday’s practice, Yeo left the struggling Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line intact yet again despite the fact he often feels the trio allows frustration to creep in and they ultimately get away from their game if they’re not rewarded early.
Frankly, the Wild, which has lost eight of its past nine games and 11 of its past 14, needs all of its top veteran players to be top players if it has any prayer of getting back into the top eight in the Western Conference.
Mikko Koivu has no goals and four assists the past 15 games. Ryan Suter, slated to play his 800th game Thursday against the Rangers, has one goal and eight assists in the past 21 games. Pominville has one goal and one assist the past 17 games. Thomas Vanek has three goals and three assists the past 21 games.
“This is a good team,” Vanek insisted. “I believe in us. I need to be better. Can’t talk about other guys what they feel like, but I know I can be a lot better and I’ve got to start with myself.
“As a group, we’ve got a great group who can win a lot of games, so I’m not concerned yet. But at the same time, there’s only so many games left. There’s no switch to turn.
“We just got to come out hard like we did [Tuesday] and then finish it.”
Luckily for the Wild, it didn’t fall further from the playoff threshold with Tuesday’s sloppy loss against the Islanders because the two teams directly ahead of Minnesota in the wild-card race — Colorado and Nashville — both lost in regulation.
But the Wild can’t rely on others when its game has been so erratic.
“This is not something that we’re not able to recover from, not able to get out of this,” Parise said. “It’s just unfortunate because we were in a spot where we were fighting for one of the top three spots in our division and now we’re fighting to get into the playoffs … again.
“We just have to play better. Our line has to be a lot better. Otherwise, we won’t get out of this anytime soon.”