ST. PAUL, Minn. — One of the remarkable changes for the Minnesota Wild under first-year coach Bruce Boudreau has been a consistency in the team’s approach after years of dramatic swings in play.
Only once this season has Minnesota lost consecutive games in regulation, and that was Nov. 1 and 5 while still gelling under Boudreau’s guidance.
The Wild host the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday trying to recover from a rare loss Tuesday at home against the New Jersey Devils.
“I always say it’s a long season,” Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk said after the loss. “Every game’s not going to be perfect. For 95 percent of the time, we’re real good in that situation. So, we’re fine. We know how to play in these situations. It just doesn’t make it any less frustrating to give away a couple of points.”
Of course, the Wild haven’t lost much at all recently, let alone in consecutive games. Their 10 regulation losses are the fewest in the Western Conference. Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to New Jersey was only their second in regulation since Dec. 2. They had won 17 of 20 games.
But the Devils scored three times in the third to surprise Minnesota, and had Boudreau plenty upset following the game.
“It was stupid,” Boudreau said of his defensemen chasing pucks in the offensive zone. “We pinch with a 3-2 lead with no one behind us. I mean, it’s stuff we don’t do, haven’t done all year. I don’t know what our thought process is there. Their winning goal, we have three guys caught. A 4-on-2, they come down, and then it’s a 1-on-5 in the zone and nobody’s doing anything. It was just dumb hockey.”
Meanwhile, the Wild are playing without one of their steadiest defenseman in Jonas Brodin. Brodin broke a finger in Tuesday’s game and left in the second period. The team announced he’d miss a minimum of four weeks.
Brodin had three goals and 13 assists in 43 games. He’ll likely be replaced in the lineup by Nate Prosser for Thursday’sgame. Prosser was scratched in nine of the past 10 games.
“He’s a good player, so it’s a big loss,” Boudreau told the team’s website. “But good teams persevere. We don’t fold like an accordion. Somebody (else) gets into the lineup and he has to do just as good.”
Minnesota likely won’t get much sympathy from Arizona. The Coyotes lost for the 12th time in 14 games on Wednesday in Winnipeg.
They were also without center Martin Hanzal, who has nine goals and six assists this season to rank fifth on the team in points. Hanzal was out for personal reasons and the team hadn’t announced whether he’d return Thursday.
Fourth-leading scorer Max Domi is also out with a hand injury. He resumed skating, according to the Arizona Republic, but hasn’t played since Dec. 8.
“At this point of the season, you can’t be saying youth or veterans,” forward Shane Doan said to the team’s website after being asked about the team after Wednesday’s loss. “It’s got to be our team. Our team is what it is. We got to be better. It’s a bunch of different things but it’s really, if you have a little successs you got to understand the team’s going to answer and push back.
Josh Jooris, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun scored for Arizona in the 6-3 loss to Winnipeg. Goaltender Mike Smith was pulled after allowing six goals on 35 shots. Louis Domingue made four saves in relief.
“We haven’t been able to put 60 minutes together and we’re going to have to find ways to do that,” Ekman-Larsson told the team’s website. “It’s frustrating right now.”
The Coyotes lost nine of the last 12 meetings against the Wild. Minnesota is in the process of playing 13 of 18 games at home.