Definitely a happier postgame locker room after victories and the Wild’s was a jolly one after tonight’s 3-1 win over the Red Wings.
Coach Mike Yeo said he definitely won’t classify this homestand as a good one, “but a win tonight doesn’t make it so bad.”
First things first: For all the people who asked me what was up with the cuts on top of Yeo’s heads, I didn’t see it the past few days because he wears hats on the ice and in the post-practice press scrums.
But Yeo said he was hiding his wife’s Christmas presents in a “great place” other than the fact he didn’t know there were metal pipes on the ceiling of whatever crawlspace he found. He stood up and “almost knocked myself out.”
Fibbing or not, that’s a pretty good story.
Speaking of fibbing, Devan Dubnyk has a good poker face. He said he didn’t know how to tip-toe around the question this morning as to whether or not he could back up tonight even with his cut wrist.
Dubnyk said he had just found out on the ice from goalie coach Bob Mason that he would probably have to start because of an upper-body injury to Darcy Kuemper.
Coach Mike Yeo normally meets with the media after the players on a game day, but it just so happens he went first today. So he says he had no clue anything was up with Kuemper until after he met with us and told us Kuemper was starting.
Yeo indicated that whatever’s plaguing Kuemper, it has been lingering. He doesn’t know how serious it is and hopes to provide a better update after Tuesday’s outdoor practice (11 a.m., open to the public) at Braemar Ice Arena (the ice is covered, but if the snow makes it uncomfortable for the fans, the Wild plans to move inside).
This morning, Dubnyk said he could barely get his hand in his blocker and have anything touch up against it without a shooting pain (almost like a shock) catching him off guard and go into his elbow, then shoulder. So he didn’t think he could play. But it started to get better as the skate went on despite pain anything he stopped a shot with his blocker.
But he showed no ill effects during tonight’s game. He stopped 28 shots and was 1:57 away from his fifth shutout of the season and third of the month when Pavel Datsyuk ruined the party.
Luckily for the Wild, Mikko Koivu had just scored a power-play goal after Petr Mrazek denied Matt Dumba with his paddle at the goal line. After Datsyuk scored, Koivu added an empty-netter.
“Win, lose, whatever, just wanted to see us play the right way,” Yeo said. “Saw a lot more pace to our game tonight. A huge part of that is the execution. That’s been our concentration the last few days.”
Yeo said he liked the Wild’s game for the most part except late in the second when he sensed his team getting frustrated that it couldn’t extend its 1-0 lead. They started turning pucks over, going east-west instead of north and stretching shifts. But he was happy the way his players regrouped in the third.
“We could have scored four goals in the third period … and probably could have drawn a few penalties, too,” Yeo said, smiling.
Charlie Coyle, who moved from center to right wing for the most part tonight and still scored his third goal in four games on an another awesome move, said, “We get in safe mode I think when we’re up.” But tonight, Coyle said the huge talk in the locker room was the fact they were controlling play, so “let’s not play safe but play smart. Just keep skating and being aggressive and we’ll force them to make turnovers and we’ll capitalize. Too bad some more didn’t go in for us, but we pulled it out.”
Dubnyk was great. As Yeo correctly said, the Red Wings are a tiring team to play for a goalie because they shoot from everywhere and always get traffic. So you have to be on guard all the time as a goalie, and you could see Dubnyk doing that tonight. Yeo said while some saves may look routine, they’re not routine saves with the Red Wings and he was delighted the way Dubnyk found all these pucks in the many scrums in the game.
Some solid efforts by many players, but I thought Ryan Suter was awesome. Just battled all night in every zone, was plus-2 and only played 23:39.
Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin combined for 11 of the Wild’s 23 blocked shots. The Red Wings had five as a team.
Zach Parise finished with two assists on the last two Koivu goals, but it was a frustrating night for the Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line. The trio chased the puck all night long, they never seemed to be on the same page and had a combined two shots through two periods and finished with four (three by Parise). That’s atypical for a line that features the two players with the highest shot totals on the team – Parise and Pominville.
After going to the bench for changes, Parise, who also aggravated a leg injury during Sunday’s practice, showed his frustration a few times for the night’s line struggles.
We’ll find out on the upcoming road trip if this is an aberration or if Yeo may need to at some point tinker with that line. Parise was only productive tonight when he played with Coyle and Nino Niederreiter at the end of the second (and the power play and empty-net situation late).
Solid win for the Wild, especially because this road trip to St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Florida and Columbus will be a tough one.
I’ll be on KFAN in-studio at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Talk to you after the (maybe) outdoor practice at Braemar.