So much was made of the Wild’s feeble power play, which entered Thursday’s game against Anaheim ranked 27th in the NHL. Well, the Wild’s penalty kill, which had been so bad, had been all but forgotten.
Not anymore. During a 3-2 loss to the Ducks, the Wild gave up two power-play goals — open-netters to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
“On PK (penalty kills), it starts with me,” goalie Niklas Backstrom said. “We have to be better. Our special teams, our PK, they’re not good enough. We have better PK (on Thursday), we’re going to win the game.”
Traditionally, especially during the Jacques Lemaire years, the Wild’s penalty kill was exceptional. Again, not anymore. The PK has been scored upon eight times on 31 chances (74.2 percent success rate).
That’s fourth-worst in the NHL.
“I thought we looked a little bit, I don’t want to say intimidated, but we were on our heels on our PK,” Mike Yeo said. “We’ve been scored on against lately, and next thing you know you start playing cautious. I don’t feel we have the same pressure, the same aggressive mentality that we had earlier.”
It won’t get any easier. The Wild has a home-and-home series beginning Saturday with the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – NOTES, QUOTES
–On Sunday, D Kurtis Foster made his season debut for the Anaheim Ducks. The former Wild scored a goal — ironically assisted by Saku Koivu.
“My wife (Stephanie) had a good laugh about it because she said the way Saku celebrated was the exact same way Mikko did back in the day when I scored against Nashville my first game here,” Foster said before playing the Wild on Thursday.
Foster and Wild captain Mikko Koivu, a groomsman at Foster’s wedding, became close friends during their four years together in Minnesota.
Wednesday night, Koivu invited Foster and his brother to his new home in Edina for a sauna, then dinner.
–The Wild ranks 25th in the NHL with a .481 faceoff win percentage.
Last season, Koivu won 52.8 percent of his draws, 29th in the NHL. This season, he’s won 49.7 percent, ranking 55th. Last season, C Matt Cullen won 56.1 percent of his draws, 12th-best in the NHL. This season, he’s won 46.4 percent, ranking 63rd.
“This is a big deal. It’s got to be better,” Cullen said. “We can’t spend 30, 40 seconds a power play chasing the puck. Especially against good teams like Vancouver and Detroit, you lose a faceoff at the beginning of a shift, you may not get it back. We have good draw guys in here, too.
“I’m confident we’ll be better, but we need to be better now.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Tell me about it.” — Wild captain Mikko Koivu, on how his gashed chin had become a magnet for elbows and sticks in practice last week.
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – ROSTER REPORT
–LW Guillaume Latendresse returned to the Wild’s lineup Thursday against Anaheim after missing a game with a groin injury, but the power forward began on the fourth line.
Coach Mike Yeo said he’s happy with Latendresse’s play, but “I’m not big on guys missing a week’s time and all of a sudden he has one practice and jumps back in.”
Latendresse called it a “coach’s decision,” saying he’d work his way back up to his quality ice time and role.
–RW Brad Staubitz was scratched Thursday — one game after committing two costly penalties in Vancouver.
“This guy’s an unbelievable teammate and all he wants to do is help his team,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We have a couple guys that almost the harder you try and the more you want to impact the game, that’s a great thing, but you have to stay in control.
“Stauby, it’s just a matter of, ‘OK, just calm down and play your game.’ He knows and we’ll continue to reinforce that we can’t have him taking minor penalties.”
–RW Brett Bulmer played his ninth game Thursday, meaning the Wild would have to return him to WHL Kelowna before his 10th game if it wants to avoid a year of his three-year deal being burned off. If he stays on the Wild roster for 40 games, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in six years as opposed to seven.
“Every day in the NHL is an important day, so if he’s continuing to develop and improve as a player and making contributions to our team, then I’m not sure why we’re bringing academic arguments into the equation,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “If he can’t keep up or he’s not contributing, then clearly it’s in everyone’s best interest to send him back. But to me, he’s a much better player today than he was the first day of training camp.”
–D Clayton Stoner injured his finger in the second period of Thursday’s game against Anaheim. He didn’t return.
–D Greg Zanon aggravated a groin injury in the third period Oct. 20 at Edmonton and missed his second straight game Thursday. He’s day-to-day.
–D Mike Lundin (back spasms) missed all of training camp. He has been improving, but he has not yet practiced with the team.
–Justin Falk, Marek Zidlicky
–Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz
–Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon
–LW Dany Heatley, C Mikko Koivu, RW Cal Clutterbuck
–LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C Matt Cullen, RW Devin Setoguchi
–LW Brett Bulmer, C Kyle Brodziak, RW Nick Johnson
–LW Guillaume Latendresse, C Darroll Powe, RW Colton Gillies