With another substantial break in the schedule--three days this time, between Sunday's 2-1 loss at Los Angeles and Thursday's home game against Arizona--the Wild held a long practice Tuesday. Charlie Coyle was the last player off the ice, two hours and three minutes after the workout started at Xcel Energy Center.
The team worked on a little of everything, including a power play that hasn't scored in 16 opportunities. Coach Mike Yeo also swapped the right wings on his second and third lines, elevating Coyle to the second line with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek and putting Justin Fontaine with Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter.
Yeo is hoping Coyle's speed--and his familiarity with former linemate Koivu--can jump-start a second line that hasn't produced. Koivu has no points in the first four games, while Vanek has only one assist.
"This was our intention going into the season, to have (Coyle) start there,'' Yeo said. "Whether injuries or other factors came into play, or the play of him on the (Niederreiter-Haula) line, that’s a line we haven’t tried yet.
"Mikko and Charlie have had a lot of chemistry together in the past. They're both big bodies, they're both strong on the puck, and Thomas should fit that as well. One thing that excites us right now is the way Charlie is skating. His speed is very noticeable; it's been a real factor out there. We think adding that element to that line could really help.''
As for the power play, Yeo and several players said its failings lie in the details. Yeo urged the team to have a stronger presence in front of the net to make it harder for goalies to spot the puck. Zach Parise said more practice time should help.
"That's the biggest thing,'' he said. "I thought it was good in LA; we had good chances and good shots, but nothing was squirting free for us. I'm hoping we practice it more and everything will start to come.
"We can make cleaner passes; a couple of times, we were trying to set guys up for one-timers, and the pucks are in the feet or the passes aren’t flat. I thought it was good in LA for the most part. It's just that the finish isn’t there.''
Despite losing back-to-back games on their California road trip after starting the season 2-0, Parise said the Wild feels good about the way it's playing.
"I don’t think anyone is upset with the way we played,'' he said. "I think our game is in a good spot. We're playing a good style of hockey. I think we're playing an exciting style of hockey, I think we're playing in a way that’s entertaining and fun for the fans to see. If we keep playing like that, we're going to win more than we're going to lose.
"We just couldn’t find the back of the net in either one of those games. Are there areas we need to improve? Of course. But all in all, for where we are in the season, I think we're playing pretty good.''