December 22, 2011
Wild not down over winless streak
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Minnesota Wild are not ready to push the panic button just yet.
While many expected the Wild to come back to reality after shooting to the top of the Western Conference standings, head coach Mike Yeo doesn't see his team's current five-game losing skid, heading into Thursday's game against the Edmonton Oilers, as evidence the other shoe is about to drop.
"I don't think things are as bad as they look right now," Yeo said. "But having said that, we want to right the ship quickly and get back on the winning side of things. We've been playing a lot of good hockey, we've had a tough schedule to deal with and we have a nice break coming up with the Christmas break, so we're looking to head into it with a good feeling."
The Wild went into Thursday 10 games over the .500 mark, a point up on the Vancouver Canucks for top spot in the Northwest Division.
They've been the surprise of the league considering Yeo is in his rookie year and their lineup lacks star power outside of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Niklas Backstrom.
"I think we're just playing a good, team game," said Wild defenceman Clayton Stoner. "We have a lot of guys in here that work hard every night and don't take too many nights off. We don't give up a lot of goals and we have guys that will battle along the wall and battle in front of the net and it doesn't matter who scores the game-winning goal, we just want to come out and have a team victory.
"There is a belief in this room that we are a good team and we're capable of winning every game."
Scoring has never been a strength of the Wild, and this year is no exception as the club is averaging less than two and-a-half goals per game.
Yet it's the system that Yeo has implemented in his first year as an NHL head coach that is being credited for the club's success.
The Wild are getting good goaltending from both Backstrom and Josh Harding and are receiving some timely scoring from unlikely sources.
Surprisingly, they are being led offensively by former Oilers centre Kyle Brodziak, who had a team-high 11 goals heading into Thursday.
"I think a lot of it is attention to detail for us," said Brodziak. "That's a big thing. When you have every guy buying in and everybody trying to pull the same way, that makes a big difference.
"I think we didn't have everybody trying to do the same things before and this year we know when we're playing well what we're doing right.
"When we're not playing well, there's a reason why we're not playing well and it makes it easier to turn things around."
The Wild had won seven straight before their recent skid began with a loss to the Winnipeg Jets and continued with overtime losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders before falling to the Canucks and Calgary Flames on the first two games of their current three-game trip.
"We just have to take a deep breath," said Yeo. "Sometimes results happen and sometimes they don't. As long as you're doing the right things, then more often then not, you'll get the results you want.
"It's the same thing for our team going out and doing the right things. Sometimes you're going to do the right things and you're not going to win the game, but more often than not you will."