Wild Saturday: Minnesota not feeling overconfident heading into Game 5
MAY 10, 2014 5:14p ET
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There's a trap lurking inside the Madhouse on Madison.
The Wild knows it's there. It stumbled into a similar one two weeks ago.
Riding the high of two convincing home wins that evened the Stanley Cup playoffs' Western Conference quarterfinal round at two games apiece, the West's top wild-card seed came out flat and never recovered in a Game 5 overtime loss April 26 at Colorado. Minnesota needed a third rousing victory at the Xcel Energy Center and another extra session at the Pepsi Center to advance.
And that was against an overachieving group of young speedsters helmed by 18-year old Nathan MacKinnon.
"You just have to be so careful that you don't let yourself feel too good," Wild coach Mike Yeo said Saturday afternoon before he and his team headed back to Chicago for Sunday's 8 p.m. Game 5 tilt. "You can't let your guard down. And this isn't just the same team we're playing that won the Stanley Cup last year, this is the same team that in Games 1 and 2 had us frustrated and had us looking like we were in a pretty deep hole."
Minnesota is 1-5 away from the Xcel Energy Center this postseason and has been outscored 26-17 on the road.
Yet even after the Blackhawks outscored his club 9-3 in the series' first two games, Yeo said he didn't feel they were "that far off." Two of Chicago's goals came with an empty net, and Minnesota kept the Blackhawks from generating many quality chances.
So there's not much to change, other than avoiding any kind of overconfidence. Left wing Dany Heatley said that shouldn't be an issue.
"I don't feel the vibe in here that we're too confident, we're too cocky," said Heatley, who leads the team in plus-minus at plus-7. "We know they're a very good team and they play well in their rink. We're going to be prepared for that."
Ballard out: Wild defenseman Keith Ballard didn't make the team's trip to Chicago on Saturday and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Yeo said, after taking a hard hit from Chicago's Brandon Bollig in the second period of Friday's 4-2 win.
Bollig was scheduled for a Saturday hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding and checking from behind. He was assessed a two-minute minor after he slammed Ballard into the right corner boards.
The 31-year-old defenseman was reluctantly escorted to the dressing room and didn't return.
Ballard started the past two games in place of Nate Prosser, a healthy scratch who failed to record a point in his first nine playoff contests. Yeo said it's likely Prosser will reassume his spot alongside Clayton Stoner for Sunday's game, though no official decision had been made yet.
"There's obviously a very good chance of that," Yeo said.
Prosser said he did his best to stay ready while watching from the press box the past two games in St. Paul.
"I just go day-to-day, stay positive, come to work with a smile on my face, just be ready when my number's called," said Prosser, an Elk River, Minn., native. "I've been playing solid the last few months. I think I want to get back in and continue to play my A-game and play with a little chip on my shoulder."
Winger Matt Moulson (lower-body injury) stayed behind in Minnesota, too. He'll miss his second straight game since Yeo revealed the nagging ailment.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't comment on Bollig's hit.
"Let the league do what it has to do on that one," he said.
Cooke contagious: Wild forward Matt Cooke returned from a seven-game suspension to register an assist and a game-high five hits in Friday's win. From the moment he stepped on the ice, he made a point of asserting himself physically, and it paid off when he stole the puck and flipped it to Justin Fontaine for the game's first goal.
It was a long wait watching Minnesota advance without him, Cooke said, but he remained ready by skating extra after practices and trying to stay mentally engaged.
"I pushed myself, because I believe in this group, I believe in the quality of this group," said Cooke, who received a seven-game ban for kneeing Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, an injury that knocked him out of the playoffs. "Especially after we won in Colorado, I knew I was going to get a chance to play again.
"I think I should have fresh legs. I have to go out there and lead the way. Hopefully my energy is contagious."
"We need everybody doing that," the coach said.
Spurred by Spurgeon: Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon goes about his business quietly, diligently, rarely stopping to attract much attention to himself.
But it's been hard for Minnesota's top scoring defenseman to avoid the limelight during these playoffs. He potted the game-tying goal in the Wild's eventual overtime thriller in Game 7 at Colorado and Friday recorded a goal and an assist for the first multi-point game of his career.
"I think as we've asked our team to get better, he's taken his game to another level," Yeo said. "This is a guy that we have so much respect for as a coaching staff. Not just the way that he executes, the poise that he has, his ability to create offense with his execution, but he's a very good defender."
Said Spurgeon: "Any guy can be that guy on any given night, and if you get a chance to make that play and are able to capitalize it's great for the team."
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