RALEIGH, N.C. – If he had his choice, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau would prefer lengthy breaks from competition in March, when his team could use the rest. Still, he refused Friday to complain about the stop-and-start schedule set out for the Wild through the first three weeks of the NHL season.
The Wild plays only six games — two per week — over the season’s first 19 days. After Saturday’s game at Carolina, the team does not play for four days until a game at Chicago on Oct. 12. It opens its home schedule Oct. 14 against Columbus, then has a five-day break before back-to-back games at Winnipeg and Calgary.
While that could hamper the Wild’s ability to settle into the routine of regular competition, Boudreau is grateful to have the extra practice time — particularly after a 4-2 loss at Detroit in Thursday’s season opener, when he saw plenty of areas that need fine-tuning.
“You’ve just got to make do,’’ the coach said after Friday’s practice at PNC Arena. “We complain when we play four games in six nights, so I’m not going to complain when you’ve got a week off.
“We’re fine. We get a week off after [Saturday’s] game, and that gives us a lot of time to work on stuff that we need to work on.’’
Because of the limited number of games, Boudreau said “there’s a good chance’’ the Wild will start backup goaltender Alex Stalock against Carolina. Boudreau doesn’t want Stalock to be idle for too long at the beginning of the season, and with Devan Dubnyk expected to start in Chicago and in the home opener, Saturday’s game is a logical spot for Stalock to get a turn.
All players except Mikael Granlund were on the ice for Friday’s practice.
Boudreau said Granlund, who was limping a bit after Thursday’s game, was taking a “maintenance day’’ and that he expects the forward to be ready to play Saturday.
Plenty to fix
Among the things Boudreau wants to brush up are the Wild’s defensive spacing, special teams and shot selection. The team failed to score on four power plays in Thursday’s loss, and the penalty kill surrendered two goals on five chances. It also faltered after rallying in the third period to tie the score 2-2, as the Red Wings scored a pair of goals from the slot — including one in which Henrik Zetterberg picked up a loose puck.
Boudreau thought the Wild settled for too many outside shots, despite outshooting the Red Wings 39-31. He also noted that they didn’t shoot high when Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was on his knees.
“I’m pretty sure we had more chances than them,’’ Boudreau said. “But at the same time, I didn’t think we were getting in for the great shots from 10 feet out until [Joel] Eriksson Ek did it. We missed a couple of open nets on the five-on-three. But for the most part, I thought they were perimeter chances.’’
Eriksson Ek scored the Wild’s first goal by beating Howard in the top corner, an approach forward Nino Niederreiter agreed the rest of the team should follow.
“The biggest thing is playing simple, getting pucks to the net and getting more shots in front of the net,’’ said Niederreiter, who put five shots on goal but did not score. “Especially myself. I’ve got to elevate those pucks to make sure I give them a chance to go in.
“These days, the goalies are very good down low. It’s not always easy to get pucks up high, but it’s something you’ve got to work on. [Thursday] we had enough chances to win that hockey game, but the shots were too low. That’s something we’ve got to do better.’’
• Five of the Wild’s first six games are on the road. Last season, it finished 22-13-6 in away games, earning the second-most road points of any team in the Western Conference.
• The Wild will hold an open practice at Bloomington Ice Garden at 11 a.m. Oct. 29. Free tickets are available through the Bloomington Amateur Hockey Association (www.bloomingtonhockey.com).