After Off Day, Wild Refocused For Game 4
After a two-day break that even Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said felt like a long time, the Wild went right back to work today at Xcel Energy Center.
According to Justin Fontaine that day off was important after a big Game 3 win Tuesday night against the Blackhawks, 4-0.
“I think it was good for everyone to have a day away from the rink and the game,” Fontaine said. “Everyone was refocused today, so it was a good day off.”
And refocus they did. With a chance to even up the series tomorrow night, the Wild knows it needs to build off Tuesday night’s contest, but believes there’s another level to its game that it has yet to reach.
“We’re still focused on that,” Yeo said. “Obviously we’re happy we won the last game, but we’re still determined to get better in this series. In this next game we’re going to come out with a real purpose in how we play. We have to stay strong defensively, but I know there’s another level we can get to with the puck and how we execute.
“We’re not sitting here saying we’ve arrived.”
With that in mind, the Wild largely went with the same lines in practice today, expect for the third line, which simply exchanged one Matt for another as Cooke re-entered the lineup while Moulson was absent from practice.
Yeo noted that Moulson is battling a lower-body injury and is not expected to be in the lineup tomorrow. So, here are the lines you can expect to see:
Cooke joins a pair of rookies who have seemed to meld together well in the postseason. Erik Haula netted Tuesday night’s game-winner, on which Justin Fontaine picked up the primary assist — creating a special Minnesota college hockey connection as the former Bulldog linked up with the former Gopher.
But, with old rivalries behind them, their game is simple: skate fast and get the puck down low.
“We’re just going north with the puck, trying use our speed, utilize that the most,” Fontaine said. “Getting pucks behind their D and going to work down there.”
Prior to that game-winning connection, Yeo noted that there was a real fear of falling into a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series at the start the game, but as it wore on, the club handled it better — playing more aggressively throughout the night, something it needs going forward.
The key is to be on the attack and being in Chicago’s face on both defense and offense.
“In the playoffs, there’s a fine line between playing smart and playing safe,” Yeo said. “We have to make sure that we are playing smart, but we have to make sure we’re not playing safe.”
Which includes being prepared for a strong reaction from Chicago tomorrow night.
“We recognize that we played a good game, but we need to be better too,” Mikko Koivu said. “What good teams do, they bounce back. Obviously we have to be better too. It’s a new game. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ve got to play to our structure and play tight defensively again, and be committed to that.”
Little Wild Learn To Play
Today the Wild announced a new youth program initiative that will look to introduce the sport by overcoming monetary barriers that tend to limit involvement at a young age.
The program will kick off in September where around 500 kids will get the opportunity to get introduced to the game in one of eight arenas across the state. Each participant will be outfitted with gear and receive four hours of professional instruction. Beyond introducing the game, the program will also note the importance of regular exercise, teamwork, and help develop leadership skills — all while having fun, of course.
“It’s our mission to continue creating a greater State of Hockey, so today we are thrilled to be launching the Little Wild Learn to Play program,” said Minnesota Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka. “We are truly thankful to our partners Minnesota Hockey, CCM and Total Hockey who have not only made this program possible, but will help us take it to the next level.”
Check out more information about the initiative here.
Want to relive Round 1? Check out this awesome video, with special commentary from the ice.