The Wild will be without captain Mikko Koivu, arguably their only irreplaceable piece, for a while. He’s week-to-week with an upper-body injury, and the Wild’s season is suddenly unraveling daily.
Minnesota lost for the 14th time in 16 games and extended their road winless streak to 10 games with a 5-1 loss Tuesday at Philadelphia.
“This is a make-or-break point of the season,” said center Matt Cullen. “It absolutely is. This is a playoff stretch for us. That has to be our mindset now. We have to get into that style.”
The problem is the Wild continue to look fragile, letting bad things in a game expand into worse things. It’s killing them right now.
“It felt like our game was there early, and … all it takes is one, two bad things to happen, and we get completely away from what we’re supposed to be doing,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “I don’t know if it’s a mind thing, a confidence thing. I don’t really know. But we have to emotionally control ourselves better.”
The team, completely lacking confidence, next heads to Toronto for a game Thursday.
“We had such a great start. We were in a perfect spot,” defenseman Nick Schultz said. “We were playing hard; we were playing consistent. We’ve gotten away from that, and for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to get it back. It’s got to come from all the guys in here.”
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – NOTES, QUOTES
–When defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored Saturday in St. Louis, it was his first goal since Nov. 13 and the first by a Wild defenseman since Dec. 8.
The Wild has the lowest-scoring blue line in the NHL.
“Yeah, it is a problem,” said assistant coach Darryl Sydor, a former longtime NHL defenseman. “You look at the elite teams, they get production from their back end and we need that. It’s important. It’s one thing we’re really trying to work on through practice.
“Some of the drills (coach Mike Yeo) does is activating the D-men and not just trying to defend. The hardest thing for anybody to defend is when you have activating D-men.”
One thing killing the Wild is defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who has scored 60 goals in his career, has no goals and 11 assists in 33 games.
“Obviously he knows it and is feeling the pressure,” Sydor said. “Sometimes when you try too hard, nothing really happens. You’ve just got to relax. Sometimes less is more and things will just start happening for you. But he’s known for his offense, so we do need that.”
–Minnesota is currently having its third father-son trip, but defenseman Nick Schultz has his older brother, Kris, along for the ride.
Kris Schultz is a former minor-league scrapper, having played four years in the United and Central Hockey Leagues in Wichita, Kansas, Columbus, Ga., and Asheville, N.C. He totaled 1,109 penalty minutes — 389 during one season in Wichita.
“The most I ever made was $850 a week,” said Kris, whose brother makes $44,000 a game. “I wasn’t going to make money at it, so I had my fun and it was time to get on with the real world. That’s why this is so cool. You’re living a dream, whether you’re here with your son or your brother.
“You get to do what you wanted to do as a kid growing up — fly on charter planes and stay in nice hotels. We don’t get the bumps and bruises, but we’re doing what the players do.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It puts some added pressure on me. Another watchful eye over the shoulder.” — Wild coach Mike Yeo, on his father, Wayne, joining him on the team’s father-son trip.
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – ROSTER REPORT
–C Mikko Koivu sustained what the Wild will only call an upper-body injury 7 1/2 minutes into Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis after being checked by C Vladimir Sobotka. The Wild is saying he’s week-to-week. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Koivu separated his shoulder and will be sidelined four to six weeks. He will miss the All-Star Game.
“It’s a big loss,” G Josh Harding said.
–G Niklas Backstrom backed up G Josh Harding for the first time in three games. Backstrom had been suffering from a stomach flu since the flight home from Calgary on Jan. 7. He hasn’t started since. He has lost six pounds and “is trying to get it back.
Coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t commit, but his initial thoughts are to start Backstrom on Thursday in Toronto.
–LW Darroll Powe, who spent three seasons with the Flyers, returned to Philadelphia Tuesday for the first time since being traded to the Wild in June.
–C Carson McMillan, a 2007 seventh-round pick who scored in his NHL debut last season in Detroit, made his season debut against the Flyers.
Yeo said McMillan got the call because of his grit.
“We expect it to be a physical game,” Yeo said. “We’re looking for a guy that’s going to really compete and play the game with an edge.”
–G Matt Hackett was reassigned. D Greg Zanon has been scratched in seven of the past 15 games.
–C Mikko Koivu (shoulder) is week-to-week after getting injured 7 1/2 minutes into Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis.
–LW/RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard was placed on injured reserve Jan. 9 with a concussion. He is out indefinitely.
–RW Jarod Palmer (upper body) was placed on injured reserve and missed his seventh game Tuesday.
–LW Guillaume Latendresse is completely shut down after suffering another concussion Dec. 14 against Chicago, one game after returning from a 15-game absence with a concussion.
–Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon
–Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky
–Mike Lundin, Clayton Stoner
–LW Dany Heatley, C Matt Cullen, RW Nick Johnson
–LW Darroll Powe, C Kyle Brodziak, RW Devin Setoguchi
–LW Cal Clutterbuck, C Warren Peters, RW David McIntyre
–LW Casey Wellman, C Carson McMillan, RW Brad Staubitz