ST. PAUL, Minn. — On the heels of yet another one-goal loss, the Minnesota Wild find themselves still searching for their first win of the year.
The Wild fell 3-2 on Tuesday in Nashville, dropping to 0-1-2. In each of the three games, Minnesota has lost by just a goal. Despite the record, the Wild remain confident and feel that they’ve actually been playing some good hockey in the first week of the season.
“We don’t have a win yet in three games. That has to be on our minds and that has to be a part of it,” head coach Mike Yeo said Wednesday. “But there’s also been some positives. So as far as the past three games, let’s learn from the things that haven’t been good enough; let’s focus on the things that have been really good and take that into the next game and figure out how to make sure we get rid of that goose egg.”
In advance of Thursday’s home game against Winnipeg, Minnesota shook up its lines at Wednesday’s practice. Yeo moved Jason Pominville from the first line to second line and bumped Nino Niederreiter form the second line to the first line to play alongside Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
While the line change should help shake things up as the Wild look for their first win, Yeo says the team might have changed up the lines even if it was 3-0. But the bottom line is that Minnesota needs more scoring from just its top line; Parise has scored three of the Wild’s seven goals, while Pominville also had a goal on the first line.
“We need something from somebody else,” Yeo said. “I’m looking at that game from last night, our top line has probably 90 percent of our scoring chances. Certainly they should lead the way, but we need something somewhere else. Nino’s played very well through three games, so he’s a guy that should be able to factor in on that top line and have a positive impact.”
Aside from the four total goals from Parise and Pominville, two of the Wild’s other three goals have come from defensemen — Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon — while forward Matt Cooke also has a goal. At any rate, seven goals hasn’t been enough through three games for Minnesota.
“It doesn’t matter who scores the goals,” Koivu said. “It’s a team effort. You need to create that as a line and as a team. … If we’re not getting chances, then I would be worried. But as long as we keep getting chances and keep the momentum, I believe that’s going to bring you success and that’s how you’re going to score goals.”
Minnesota lost its first game of the year in a shootout and then fell in overtime to Anaheim. Wednesday’s game was the first regulation loss of the year for the Wild, who fell behind 3-1 before losing 3-2. With yet another division opponent coming to town Thursday, there’s a sense of urgency for Minnesota to finally get its first win.
“We’re 0-1-2. We wanted to be 3-0, of course,” said goalie Josh Harding, who will start Thursday in place of the injured Niklas Backstrom. “We’re going to take the positives, keep working every day and we’ve got to find a way to win here. That’s the most important thing.”
Wild recall Veilleux: Minnesota announced Wednesday that it recalled forward Stephane Veilleux from the Iowa Wild and reassigned forwards Jason Zucker and Carson McMillan to Iowa.
“Zuck wasn’t going to factor in on the third line and we’re not going to play him on the fourth line,” Yeo said. “First off, with that fourth line, we’re giving it an identity. We’re giving it speed on the wings with (Torrey Mitchell) and Steph.”
The 31-year-old Veilleux did not play with the Wild during the regular season last year but was a part of Minnesota’s playoff roster, appearing in two postseason games. His best year with the Wild came during the 2008-09 season when he notched 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 81 games.
“It doesn’t get old, let me tell you that,” Veilleux said of being recalled. “I’m ready to be here and contribute to help the team get some wins.”
A rivalry renewed: Because of the lockout-shortened season, the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets never faced off during the 2012-13 schedule. But thanks to realignment, those two teams will see a lot more of each other as members of the Western Conference’s Central Division.
The first matchup takes play Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. If the preseason is any indication, there should be plenty of Jets fans in the building. Minnesota and Winnipeg squared off twice in the preseason, and the Wild were reminded of how well Jets fans travel.
The new division alignments, coupled with the fact that Winnipeg and St. Paul are a seven hour drive from each other is likely to lead to a rather fierce rivalry.
“When the fans come into our building, it just makes for a very exciting game,” Yeo said. “This is going to be a rivalry for us, for sure. Geographically, the fact that they’re in our division, the fact that both teams are going to come out and play real hard, I think it’s natural.”