CALGARY, Alberta — The Minnesota Wild were great in October but fell to slightly below average in November and begin December in Alberta trying to turn things around.
The Wild surrendered a lead for the third time in six games Tuesday in Vancouver, prompting frustrated head coach Bruce Boudreau to cancel a day off on Wednesday in Calgary and replace it with a 70-minute practice.
“We have to be better, that’s it,” right wing Jason Pominville said after the 5-4 loss to the Canucks. “Obviously, we are disappointed. We’re not happy with the result we got. We have to take a couple of days here, get some rest, get some practice and get back to work.”
After starting the season with a 6-2-1 October, the Wild slid to a 5-6-2 November, and they begin shopping for pre-Christmas victories Friday against the surging Calgary Flames.
“We’ll regroup,” Boudreau said. “We have two days before our next game and two practices before our next game. We’ll see where we stand.”
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Wednesday’s practice focused mostly on how to avoid odd-man rushes, which was a big part of the Vancouver game. Boudreau called out the line of Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle for their misdeeds, and Parise took ownership when he stood in front of media in Calgary.
“We didn’t support each other very much up the ice, turned the puck over a lot in the offensive zone,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It was just one of those games. We couldn’t get much going. It happens.”
Boudreau spoke to that line about doing better.
“They’re good players and they’re all professional and they’re going to get back on track. We’d like to see, and we haven’t seen it too often, that all the lines are going at the same time. … They’re good players. It’s a good team. We’ll find out way again Friday,” he said.
Coyle offered this after Thursday’s practice: “We’ve got to be ready to come out right away and get to our game fast.”
While the Wild were trying to sort through their problems while awaiting Friday’s game, the Flames were continuing to ride the hot goaltending of Chad Johnson, who stopped 39 shots to blank the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Johnson was brought to Calgary to back up Brian Elliott, but he has taken over the No. 1 role by going 6-2-0 with three shutouts and a 1.50 goals-against-average in his last eight starts. He became the first Flames goaltender to record three shutouts in one month since Fred Braithwaite did it in December 1999.
The Flames returned home after playing six games in nine nights and going 3-2-1. They are now 11-13-2 and within sight of .500 thanks to Johnson.
“He was fantastic,” Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We were a tired hockey club. (The Leafs) are in there back-to-back, I understand that, but six in nine nights and coming back home from New York, we were a tired club. I loved our start and then when you get a goaltending performance that Johnny gives us, it gives you a chance.”
The Flames begun the Johnny Gaudreau watch in earnest recently. The star winger returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since breaking a finger on a slash from Staal in Minnesota on Nov. 15. The Flames said then he’d be out four to six weeks and he’s now in his third week of recovery.
Calgary are 5-3-1 without Gaudreau.
“We said when Johnny was injured that this was a chance for us to solidify and come together and have other guys step up and solidify a good defensive base,” Gulutzan said.
“Do we get away from that at times, certainly we do. But, we’re coming together and learning how to play and learning how to reduce the goals against.”