CALGARY, ALBERTA – The Wild took the ice Tuesday at the Saddledome trying to erase the lasting effects of a rare loss the night before and what Zach Parise called a “crummy feeling” after seeing how much that defeat affected the team in the standings.
Despite not losing in regulation since Jan. 19, the Wild’s position took a hit because Calgary, Winnipeg and Los Angeles all rallied for victories.
“It’s tough because you lose one game in three weeks in regulation and it feels like you’ve lost probably four or five in a row,” coach Mike Yeo said. “But that’s part of the challenge, that’s part of the journey of getting there.”
That makes Wednesday’s game against Calgary that more important, although goalie Devan Dubnyk said, “There’s a lot of points left to be had. The simple fact is if we keep winning games, we’re going to be in the playoffs. We can’t be looking at it and think, ‘Oh my god, we can’t lose this game.’ … That’s not a way to be successful.”
Thomas Vanek, who has been dealing with a lower-body injury for some time, missed Tuesday’s practice. Yeo expects Vanek to play Wednesday, and by the look of practice, the Wild plans to break up its top line of Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville.
The Flames have the last line change and one of the NHL’s best defense pairs in Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. With the Wild lacking depth up front because of injuries, Yeo wants to spread the wealth and make it more difficult for the Flames to check the Wild.
In a 1-0 victory at Calgary on Jan. 29, Parise, Mikael Granlund and Vanek were a trio, and Parise scored the game’s only goal when Vanek forced a turnover. In Wednesday’s practice, Nino Niederreiter, who scored two goals in Monday’s 3-2 loss at Vancouver, was elevated to the Koivu-Pominville line.
In the past, Niederreiter hasn’t excelled when he moves up in lines. Yeo said Monday, “It’s not always easy for a young player. You start to feel like you have to force things, press. You start to change the mentality you approach the game with. [Niederreiter], if he’s playing with, say, Charlie [Coyle] and [Jordan Schroeder], he’s more comfortable in his own skin.”
Yeo indicated Tuesday that if Niederreiter ends up playing with Koivu and Pominville, he will meet with Niederreiter to implore him not to alter his game.
Yeo tried Schroeder with Vanek and Granlund against Florida last week, “but I thought [Schroeder’s] speed was not nearly as much of a factor. He kind of stopped moving his feet. When he plays with Nino and Charlie, he plays more of a north game and goes straight ahead.”
Schroeder skated with Parise and Granlund on Tuesday, but that was perhaps only because of Vanek’s absence. If he plays, Schroeder is expected to join Coyle again.
With Vanek banged up and the Wild’s fourth line having given up the winning goal in Vancouver, Yeo indicated the team might recall a forward Wednesday morning. Rookie Tyler Graovac, 21, who has played three scoreless games, could add a big body and offensive threat, although the Wild might look more so at a veteran checker such as Brett Sutter.
“These games are pretty rich right now,” Yeo said. “That’s not to say [Graovac’s] not an option, but to throw somebody in without a lot of experience playing this time of year can be a tough thing for somebody, too.”