RALEIGH, N.C. – In the midst of a busy stretch of 20 games in the season’s final 35 days, Bruce Boudreau said he thinks the Wild is cracking because of fatigue and lack of practice time.
But, because the Wild is showing so many lapses in its game, the coach decided to practice his team Wednesday and scrap Thursday’s morning skate in advance of its game against the Carolina Hurricanes instead.
The Wild had a warm-up and stretch at its hotel, and Boudreau wanted players to stay in their room where they could “sort of focus more.”
Boudreau, like Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said earlier this season, said it’s not so much the ice time that fatigues players but the act of constantly going to the rink, changing clothes and putting on their equipment.
“That’s the stuff, believe it or not, you start dreading after awhile,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau felt Wednesday’s practice was vital with the way the team has played lately.
“You can’t fix 10 things in a day, but you could certainly work on one or two and get them straightened around, and then whenever we practice again, hopefully this stays with them and we can work on some more things,” Boudreau said. “You see teams when they go on losing streaks say we need a couple good practices. That’s what we need. We need a couple good practices.”
The problem is the Wild has a mandatory off-day Friday. It plays Saturday and Sunday. Monday is a mandatory off-day. Tuesday is a game day. So, the Wild’s next practice is scheduled for Wednesday.
“Sitting there after [Tuesday’s loss to Washington], we said, ‘They look really tired out there,’ ” Boudreau said, adding that the coaches wondered, “Is it fatigue, are they getting out of shape because they haven’t practiced, is it the travel?’ You’re sort of guessing which one it is.”
Boudreau feels the Wild’s “biggest problem the last 10 games … is getting them all playing good on the same night. We have either seven forwards going and five not going. Or, four defense going and not six going. Or, the goalie not being on top of his game.
“We’ve got to get back to where I think our biggest trait was consistency, in that 18 players were playing well.”
Haula on D?
Banged-up defenseman Marco Scandella played Thursday night after not practicing the day before.
In practice, center Erik Haula was a placeholder on the blue line as defenseman Nate Prosser’s partner.
Haula didn’t look out of sorts either.
“Bruce came to me before practice and we talked about who would play [defense],” Haula said. “I guess [assistant coach Scott Stevens] thinks I can play defense. So [Boudreau] was like, ‘OK, you can play [defense] today.’
“I was kind of trying to follow the d-men going in front of me.”
Haula said, laughing, “I was telling [Boudreau] after practice, ‘Just make sure [Stevens] doesn’t recruit me to that side [of the bench].’ ”
Stevens has told Boudreau all year that Haula would make a good D because he’s such a skilled backwards skater.
Eric Staal’s 998th game came against his brother, Jordan, a center on the Hurricanes. His 999th game is expected to come Saturday in St. Paul against his other brother, Marc, a defenseman on the New York Rangers.
Eric has a bet with Jordan for a “nice, expensive bottle of red” wine for whoever scores the most goals.
Eric has 23 goals, Jordan has 13.
“For awhile, Jordan was catching up, too,” said father Henry Staal. “Jordan gives Eric grief that he gets too many empty-netters.”
Staal and the Wild’s Mikael Granlund are tied with four others for the league-lead with four empty-net goals. Jordan Staal has zero.