South continues to cook Wild
By Jamie MacDonald
While snow was in the forecast for the State of Hockey, the Wild remained cold in the Sunshine State. Minnesota, which played Thursday night in Atlanta, visited the Florida Panthers in the back end of consecutive games, coming away with a second loss in as many nights.
The Wild fell to 2-3-1 on the road this season after allowing, as they did on Friday, a pair of first-period goals. Also for the second consecutive night, the team managed to score only once, this time in a 2-1 loss. All three goals were scored in the first period.
The Wild went on to tighten its defense in the second and add some offensive chances in the third, but were unable to mount a sustained comeback effort.
‘BIG DOGS’ NOT BARKING?
On Friday, without naming names, Todd Richards called for a little more from his marquee players.
“You always look to, as I say, the big dogs,” Richards said. “You need your big dogs to step up in the big games. You need your big dogs to step up and make plays, and when they get opportunities, they need to finish.”
The Wild’s overall defensive effort was certainly more sound Friday than it was Thursday, but there were still enough breakdowns to make things interesting for Jose Theodore. After the first period, bending without breaking provided Minnesota with both good and bad news.
The bad news? Continued breakdowns, and, in the case of the second period, too few offensive chances. The good news? Playing more respectably in their own end.
Whether it was Nick Schultz making sure he beat everyone to a dangerous puck before throwing it out of the zone, or Eric Nystrom or Kyle Brodziak lifting sticks in the slot to negate a scoring chances, or Theodore making stab saves with his leg pads and gloves, the Wild were harder to play against.
By game’s end, though, Richards may have seen more bad than good.
“They were getting the puck in and forechecking, and we were turning pucks over,” he said.
Playing in only his eighth game of the season, Casey Wellman saw much of his icetime with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck. In all, Wellman played 19 shifts and 14:31, both season highs, and took four shots.
He also played with Martin Havlat as one of two forwards during a four-on-four. Wellman’s speed will always catch the eye, but his game shows signs of becoming more effective, especially with Cullen and Clutterbuck on Friday.