Wild breathing a little easier after successful road trip
Mike Yeo saw the question coming and took a deep breath as he interrupted and asked the question himself.
"Do I feel comfortable?" Yeo asked after the Minnesota Wild’s shootout loss in Chicago on Thursday night.
"No," Yeo said in answering the question, shaking his head and letting out his deep breath.
Yeo, of course, was being asked about Minnesota’s playoff positioning with five games left in the season. The Wild hold a five-point cushion on the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for seventh place in the West and the wild-card lead after earning a point against the Blackhawks on Thursday with five games remaining in their season.
Minnesota earned a point thanks to Erik Haula’s tying goal with 1 minute, 54 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday. Meanwhile, Dallas lost in Carolina a day after Phoenix lost in Carolina.
"Really big," forward Zach Parise told reporters after the game. "On a tough road trip that we had, to get five of eight points, it’s not great but it’s pretty good. Where the standings sit, where everything sits, every point matters now. To get it the way we did, with that late goal, it’s big."
With five games left, the Wild have four home games. The stretch isn’t easy with a game Saturday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins (103 points), a road game at Winnipeg and then three home games to close out the season with the Boston Bruins (an Eastern Conference-leading 111 points), St. Louis (a Western Conference-leading 111 points) and Nashville.
Yeo and Minnesota can breathe a little easier after a successful road trip against four potential playoff teams though.
Yeo and Parise talked about the Wild not being at their best in Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago. But significance of getting one point and returning home with five points on a tough four-game road trip wasn’t lost on Minnesota.
"Bottom line is, our guys — and (goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov) obviously was a big part of that too — but keeping it close all game long and obviously you’re looking for a break and we got one at the end. So, that’s a huge point for us. Obviously we would have liked to have gotten two but when you can get points and you’re not completely on top of things, then it’s a good thing."
The Wild’s playoff positioning was being threatened a week ago after a tough loss at home and then starting the road trip with a 5-1 loss at St. Louis. Minnesota then rallied — a common theme for the road trip — with third period, come-from-behind wins at Phoenix and Los Angeles and the shootout loss at Chicago with Haula’s late tying goal.
"Usually when you go on a long road trip, you’d like to get off on a good start," Yeo said. "That’s one thing we always stress. Looking at this road trip, obviously that St. Louis game, nobody can feel good about that. But getting five out of our next six points against tough teams, I think that’s something we have to feel good about. At the same time, we have to look at this game and say we have to be a little bit better. We’re going back home. We have to pick up our game at home and obviously we’re playing against some very, very good teams coming up here. So, we’ll take this point, get refocused and set for the next one."
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