With its game having taken a turn for the worse, the Wild looked forward to much-needed practice time Sunday.
But in its first full practice in nine days, two key cogs sustained minor injuries.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk suffered a “pressure cut” near his right wrist, getting a half-dozen stitches after a shot caught him peculiarly. Ten minutes later, left winger Zach Parise limped off the ice.
Parise said afterward he’d be OK, and coach Mike Yeo expects both players to be fine for Monday’s game against Detroit.
Still, Yeo declined to announce his starting goalie, and since the Wild has lost three of its past four games with Dubnyk in net, it wouldn’t be surprising if Darcy Kuemper gets the nod. He is 4-0-2 with a 1.26 goals-against average this month.
The Wild’s game has slipped mightily since a nine-game point streak ended four games ago. Defenseman Ryan Suter said Sunday was about “resetting and refocusing.”
“It got the cookies out of us,” Suter joked, referring to the Christmas break.
In a Dec. 19 loss at Nashville and Saturday’s loss against Pittsburgh, the Wild has looked slow, spending too much time in its own zone and generating few scoring chances.
“The past five games, we’re not being creative enough in my opinion [in the offensive zone],” left winger Thomas Vanek said. “We’re sloppy through the neutral zone, we get it deep, we’re a little late on it and when we do get it, we just shovel it up to our D-man. They get a shot blocked and back down.
“The creativity’s a little bit missing. When we’re dangerous, we cycle it low and use our D-man rolling down. It’s about being better on the puck, more cycles and getting shots on net.”
This is what Yeo preached during Sunday’s practice, which was spent predominantly on getting through the neutral zone cleanly and forechecking in the offensive zone. He said part of the Wild’s issues stems from being too fancy in the neutral zone.
“When we’re on top of our game, we’re a real strong forechecking team, we’re recovering pucks, we’re playing in the offensive zone and I feel that part of our game has really been missing,” Yeo said.
Yeo said there are ups and downs over the course of a season and it’s a matter of the Wild piecing together its game again.
“We have to know as a group that we’re not a team that can just go out there and play off skill and be OK,” he said. “We want to play the game with skill, but there’s other ingredients that have to be there if we’re going to be successful. It’s a long year. And it’s tough to bring the work ethic that you need every day, to bring the focus and the preparation that you need every day.”
Assuming Parise plays, Erik Haula is expected to center Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle on Monday and Justin Fontaine, coming off a subpar game, would be scratched. The Wild also shuffled its second and third defense pairs Sunday. Marco Scandella skated with Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin skated with Nate Prosser.
Vanek said it’s simple for the Wild to rediscover its game, “but you have to start somewhere. Right now, the little chances we’re getting we’re not scoring and we’re not creating enough to come back from a two-goal [deficit] right now.
“We’ve got to realize our game is not good enough right now. We’ve got to string some wins together.”