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Wild's Boudreau sends players a message: 'This is not a country club'

Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau talks to a referee in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Apr. 4, 2017. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO — A couple weeks after hoping "a little fun" during practice would snap his team out of its early-season malaise, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau shifted to a new tactic, skating his team into the ice during Tuesday's practice.

Asked what made him change his tactics, the 62-year-old coach turned the page to Parenting 101.

"I always think of how I would do it with my own kids," Boudreau said. "If they weren't doing what I wanted them to, how would I react to that, and then can I keep doing (the same thing). Somebody said to me today, 'Well, you should make it fun again,' and I'm going, 'No. This is not a country club.'"

So during a grueling, 45-minute practice at the MasterCard Centre in the coach's hometown, the Wild did not stop moving their feet. It started with a brief warm-up skate before quickly transitioning into various full-length skating drills that left Wild players gasping for air between reps.

It was a far cry from Boudreau's "fun" practice a couple weeks ago that featured various competitions, including an intrasquad shootout to close things out.

"I mean, the bottom line is we have to work if we want to win," Boudreau said. "Because every night there's 20 guys that want to beat us, and if we don't outwork them, our talent doesn't mean a thing."

The Wild found that out the hard way during Monday's embarrassing 5-3 loss to the injury-riddled Bruins in Boston. Afterward, Boudreau ripped into his team, calling the opening 40 minutes "the most embarrassing two periods" he's been a part of in quite some time.

"We know we didn't play good last night, especially the first two periods," winger Nino Niederreiter said. "That is a team we had to beat. It was just not good enough from us."

Niederreiter added that he anticipated a difficult practice on Tuesday, and said the Wild have to bring their "working boots" for Wednesday's game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

"We aren't working hard enough right now," Niederreiter said. "We have to work. We have to make the team (not) want to play us. That is where it starts."

That feeling resonates throughout the locker room.

"We are (near) the basement right now in the Western Conference," winger Chris Stewart said. "Everybody in this dressing room knows that's unacceptable. It's something we've talked about as a team, that we don't want to put ourselves in the position here to play catch-up. You look at the Western Conference and there are important games every night. We have to start building here and start racking up some points."

As soon as Tuesday's practice wrapped up, Boudreau left the ice and quickly got dressed. He then chatted with reporters for about 10 minutes before hurrying out of the arena.

While the Wild are atop his list of priorities almost 24/7/365, at least for the next few hours, Boudreau was ready to turn all of his attention to something else.

"Well, I'm going to visit my mother right now," Boudreau said. "Just spend some quality time and have her criticize me all night long."

To be fair, his 84-year-old mother has something to criticize at the moment with the Wild 13th in the 15-team Western Conference with just 12 points in 13 games.

"She's fine," Boudreau said with a laugh. "I just wish she wouldn't watch TV."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.