Good day from New Yawk and more specifically the Madison Square Garden press room. Over yonder, the Wild finished practice about 90 minutes ago on the MSG ice (rarity a team can practice in this busy arena) and all Wild players got out of Tuesday’s Islanders game healthy and participated.
Except for the fourth line, which may be tinkered a bit Thursday against the Rangers, the Wild had the same top-3 lines configured in practice that began Tuesday’s game across the river in Brooklyn.
Rangers have been up and down, literally. In the past 16 games, they’re 8-8 in a win-one, lose-one pattern amazingly in those 16 games. The bad news (I know, I rarely provide good)? They lost vs. the Devils on Tuesday, so if the pattern keeps up, uh-oh.
There was no bag skate or screaming from the coach. Instead, practice began with a quick gathering at center ice and, “Woooo,” as work began.
So, it was very clear coach Mike Yeo was taking the morale-boosting approach rather than the rattle the cages approach.
“We just needed a good workday,” Ye.o said afterward “That’s what we got. Guys put in a good amount of work in practice, it was good pace. That’s all we can do right now. We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get better, so we’ll get better.”
Asked if he’s become a part-time psychologist with his team having lost eight of its past nine games and 11 of its past 14, Yeo said, “I think that’s always a big part of every coach’s job, whether it’s dealing with one on one with individuals or the psyche of the group. Whether it’s clearing the mind, finding a way to make sure you’re focused, dealing with different emotions. That’s a big part of my job right now.”
Yeo again reiterated that because the Wild has gotten out of similar situations in the past and became better for it, he feels it can happen again.
“The real positive you don’t do those things without a lot of character,” he said. “We’ve often pointed to the leadership and character of this group and certainly it gives me confidence as a coach that we can get out of this again.”
In Thursday’s Strib, I focused on the Wild’s top players needing to be top players again. A big part of the story is Zach Parise’s play lately – he has one goal and no assists and is minus-9 in the past eight games – and his obvious frustration level.
It’s been obviously off the ice, but just watch the way he’s playing, it’s clear he’s out of sorts.
“It’s been really frustrating, beyond frustrating at times,” Parise said. “It’s been hard, it’s been really hard the last couple months.
“Collectively we’re all trying to get out of it. It’s just been, … I don’t know how to describe it. It’s been hard. It’s been an absolute grind to score and to get points, and then on top of that, losing a lot, it’s just wearing on guys.”
Yeo again said it’s just imperative the Wild fights through the “negative emotions. We can’t have any room for that right now. We’ve got to stay positive and we have to keep working. That’s the only way out.”
He said it’s normal to have negative thoughts “creep into your mind when things are not going well. That’s just human nature.”
But Yeo said, “We’re a group that has the character to get through that. But that said, it’s not easy. There’s only one way. We have to work and earn that confidence back in our game and that trust when you do things the right way that you’ll get rewarded.”
Yeo said he’s leaning toward starting Devan Dubnyk, pulled for the first time this season against the Isles, against the Rangers. Yeo said, “It not his fault we lost the game.”
Yeo did say the decision has nothing to do with Darcy Kuemper’s collapse at the Garden last season. Remember, the Wild led 4-1 after two, yet lost 5-4 in regulation.
Yeo just said of his skidding team, “It’s not an individual thing. It’s not one guy right now. It’s us collectively. It’s not a tactical thing, it’s not an element of our game. We’ve got a group that’s done it, we’ve got a group that’s good enough to do it. We just have to be a little bit better, that’s all.”
That’s it for now. I’m not positive GM Chuck Fletcher is on the trip. I haven’t seen him and as of now my interview request has gone unanswered. As I’ve reported a gazillion times in print and on the airwaves, he’s working the phones and trying to make a trade. We shall see. Not easy the way his roster is currently constructed.
Owner Craig Leipold did graciously decline my … gracious interview request.
Talk to you Thursday barring any news.