With the Wild well into just its third practice since Dec. 18, with players working at both ends of the Xcel Energy Center rink, coach Mike Yeo and star Zach Parise met by the penalty box.
For most of the last half of practice they talked. After players and coaches had left the ice, they continued to stand and talk.
So, what were you talking about?
“Like I’m going to tell you,” Parise said.
“The weather,” Yeo said. “It’s been really cold, so …”
It’s probably not difficult to guess on at least some of the topics the two covered. The Wild has lost its past two games, both at home, both against Eastern Conference teams it should have handled. After a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Sunday, Parise already was talking about how the team wasn’t playing to its potential. Not much changed Tuesday against Buffalo, when the Wild spotted the Sabres a 3-0 lead before losing 3-2.
Minnesota has struggled on power plays (1-for-23 in the past 13 games) and struggled at home. The Wild is 0-2-1 in its past three at home and 2-4-1 in its past seven at Xcel and has started games slowly.
So there was a lot to talk about, and a lot to work on with Friday’s home game with Winnipeg looming.
The team did a lot of skating, worked in the defensive zone and drilled on the power play.
“We needed that,” Parise said. “We haven’t had a lot of practice time with [the power play]. Or even really a lot of game time with it. It was good to work on it a little bit.”
Especially with the Wild about to get back into the Central Division fray. The Wild hosts Winnipeg on Friday, then plays at Nashville on Saturday. The game against the Predators begins a four-game road swing, all against Western Conference opponents.
So the time is now to break out of the recent mini-slump during which the Wild has lost five of seven games.
“It’s just little areas of our game that have been missing,” Parise said. “Or we haven’t been as good. Hopefully [Friday], playing against a good team you know you have to be ready to play against, that will bring out a good game for us.”
Yeo made some changes to his lines, including moving Charlie Coyle to wing on a line with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker and reuniting the line of Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.
Defenseman Nate Prosser will return to action against Winnipeg, replacing Mike Reilly.
Now the Wild needs to win a home game. It’s not right to call this a must win, but the team definitely needs to improve.
“We need to be better on home ice,” Coyle said. “And that started with preparation [Thursday]. We had a good practice. It should be easy to get up for this game. We need it.
“You want to be good in your own building. When teams come to play you, you want to make it hard on them, frustrate them. We haven’t been doing that of late. We want to turn things around.”
That started with a good practice. And, perhaps, a lot conversation.
“We talked about a lot of things,” Parise said. “We touched on a bit of everything.”