For just the third time since Dec. 18 the Minnesota Wild actually practiced Thursday.
The hour-plus-long workout included a lot of skating, some work on breakouts, a lot of work in the defensive zone and some much-needed work on the power play at Xcel Energy Center.
But none of that was the most interesting thing that happened. For much of the second half of practice and for long after the others left the ice, head coach Mike Yeo and Zach Parise stood by the penalty box and talked.
What did they talk about? “Do you actually think I’m going to tell you?” Parise said. Offered Yeo: “The weather. The weather has been really cold. So….''
Right. Maybe they were talking about a Wild team that has been less than hot during it’s current homestand. Even before the Wild lost to Buffalo in its last game Parise was talking about how the team wasn’t playing up to its potential. Now, having gone 0-2-1 in its last three at home – all against Eastern Conference teams – and 2-4-1 in its last seven at home, the Wild very much needs a win Friday against Winnipeg before heading back out on the road.
“Little areas of our game have been missing,” Parise said. “Or we haven’t been as good. Hopefully tomorrow, playing against a good team you know you have to be ready to play against, that will bring out a good game for us.’’
No question the team needed the work. Particularly on the power play, 1-for-23 in the past 13 games. The Wild hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunity to begin with, and haven’t done much when it actually gets a man advantage. Getting the team back to playing the way it is capable will help get more opportunities. And perhaps getting a practice in will help with production.
“We’re not on the top of our game here this last little stretch here,” Yeo said. “When we’re on top of our game we’re playing with a lot more speed. And that speed generates some opportunities. When we’re on top of our game we’re playing in the offensive zone a little more, controlling the puck a little bit more. That forces the opposition into situations where they might have to hook or hold.’’
Here are some other items from practice:
Yeo went with these lines: Mikko Koivu with Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker; Mikael Granlund with Jason Pominville and Parise; Erik Haula with Nino Niederreiter and Thomas Vanek, and Jarret Stoll with Chris Porter and Justin Fontaine.
The top power play unit in practice was Koivu, Parise, Vanek, Pominville and Suter.
Ryan Carter (hand injuries) did not practice, but did skate on his own. Yeo said he won’t play this weekend.
Yeo said Nate Prosser will return the lineup Friday, replacing Mike Reilly.
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal.