Nino Niederreiter was hoping the Christmas break came at a perfect time. The Wild’s leading goal scorer admits his confidence started to wane by a slew of minuses that has led him to being a team-worst minus-13.
“Definitely it’s a great reset for myself,” Niederreiter, a minus-11 the past nine games, said before being minus-2 in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. “There’s a lot of times where you hopped on ice and all of a sudden you’re scored against. It brings yourself down right away because at the end of the day I want to be a plus player, so little things just got in my head bigtime. I want to help the team win.”
So Niederreiter shut hockey off during Christmas and spent the holiday with his buddy, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Streit. The Wild played the Flyers in the last game before the break, so Streit stayed in the Twin Cities to hang with his Swiss countryman.
The two lived together in Garden City, N.Y., when they were teammates with the Islanders and are part of the exclusive Breitling Watch Company’s “Transatlantic Flyers Club,” where Swiss NHLers take part in different Breitling events and aeronautical ventures in the summertime.
Over Christmas, Niederreiter and Streit made a Swiss dish called, Raclette. They used a special grill to cook a variety of meats, potatoes and cheeses.
“It’s so good and a lot of fun, too,” Niederreiter said.
Niederreiter and Streit also saw Varekai, the Cirque du Soleil currently playing at the Target Center.
“We just enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t think about hockey,” Niederreiter said. “I feel like for the whole team it was great just to get away and not think about hockey.”
Niederreiter repeated Wild coach Mike Yeo’s message to the team during a meeting Saturday morning.
“We have to start a new chapter. It’s not the end of the story,” Niederreiter said. “That’s the main thing. It was a chapter. We passed it. We just have to look forward. We have 50 games left. We just have to make sure we leave it all out there to make sure we get a playoff spot.”
Curry gets the call
The Wild was without both its No. 1 and 2 goalies against the Jets.
Niklas Backstrom, who was scratched from Tuesday’s scheduled start against Philadelphia, skated Saturday morning but left the ice early. He was subsequently placed on injured reserve retroactive to last Sunday, so he can return Monday night at Winnipeg if he’s healthy.
Then, Darcy Kuemper, who was supposed to start Saturdy night, apparently was under the weather. John Curry was recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League under emergency conditions and ended up making his second career start for the Wild with Kuemper as the backup.
Curry was only told before his afternoon flight from Grand Rapids, Mich., that it would be “50-50” if he would start.
That same stomach ailment that has knocked several Wild players from the lineup also sidelined left wing Jason Zucker, too: “It’s his turn,” Yeo said, sarcastically.
Curry finished with 19 saves on 23 shots.
Getting their shot
For the fourth consecutive game, the Wild used a different third defense pair rotation. The latest against the Jets was Justin Falk-Stu Bickel. Nate Prosser and Christian Folin were scratched.
Why Falk and Bickel?
“Big, physical pair against a physical team,” Yeo said.
With Keith Ballard out long-term, the Wild has shown little trust in the third pair. In fact, many nights those defensemen play fewer than 10 minutes. Now, the Wild may have an even bigger depth problem because Jonas Brodin left Saturday’s game due to an upper-body injury. At a minimum, Yeo said he won’t play Monday.
Asked if the Wild needs to acquire a defenseman with the holiday roster free expiring Saturday night, Yeo said before Brodin’s injury: “I’m definitely not going to say that we need anything right now. We’re very confident and comfortable with our group.”