Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — It was a blustery day in Calgary more than three weeks ago when an expected off day turned into a mandatory practice day for the Wild. In the aftermath of an embarrassing loss to the Vancouver Canucks the night before, coach Bruce Boudreau gathered his group at the Stampede Corral, the run-down building adjacent to the actual NHL rink in Calgary. "That was kind of the turning point in the season there," veteran winger Chris Stewart said. "It definitely lit a fire under us, and we have been rolling ever since."
ST. PAUL — It has become widespread knowledge across the NHL that Cary Price, when healthy, is the league's best goaltender. The Montreal Canadiens goalie is 13-2-1 with a league-best .947 save percentage and 1.68 goals-against average. In mid-November, he became the first goaltender in NHL history to win his first 10 games of the season. "He's that guy everyone across the league is chasing," Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. Dubnyk might have caught him.
ST. PAUL — A player surrounded by high expectations taking the NHL by storm. Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has seen this story before. Boudreau became Alex Ovechkin's coach in Washington two years after the NHL superstar scored 52 goals in a masterful rookie season. He coached Ovechkin for parts of five seasons with the Capitals and knows his talent level as well as anyone in the league. So, it takes a lot for Boudreau to compare anyone to Ovechkin, and he couldn't help himself Tuesday when Winnipeg Jets phenom Patrick Laine's name came up.
ST. PAUL—Maybe it's the way the two defensemen complement one another — a speedster and a brute on the blue line. Maybe it's the way Scott Stevens — legendary-defenseman-turned-assistant-coach — has seemed to light a fire under the entire unit. Maybe it's simply because they're both from Sweden. Whatever the case, Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin are working well together. The two have been the Wild's most combination on a blue line beset by injuries and spotty play.
ST. PAUL—Zach Parise returned to practice for the Wild on Monday after missing the previous six games with a foot injury. Now the question is when he'll be back for good. Parise said he "felt really good" throughout a 45-minute practice Monday at the Xcel Energy Center but was noncommittal about whether he would play Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames. "I'll talk to (coach Bruce Boudreau) now that we're done here and kind of relay how I felt and find his thoughts and we'll go from there," the star left winger said.
ST. PAUL—Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he was "grumpy" upon arriving at the Xcel Energy Center on Monday morning. By the end of practice, he was "irritated." And who could blame him? Injuries are making it difficult for the salary-cap-stressed Wild to field a team. Boudreau and the Wild were without five skaters on Monday, four forwards and a defensemen, unable to even ice a fourth line.
BUFFALO, N.Y.—Nino Niederreiter certainly wasn't spewing confidence. A player who has shown the potential to be a 30-goal scorer someday, Niederreiter looked almost afraid to shoot the puck early in the season. He took five shots in the first five games, and didn't seem to be playing with his usual swagger. Bruce Boudreau recognized that, and before Sunday's game against the New York Islanders, the Wild coach moved Niederreiter up to a line with Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle, two guys who play his style of hockey.
BOSTON — Bruce Boudreau has been around a long time, so he knows what happens in one game doesn't mean much. Still, the first-year Wild coach loved what he saw out of his new first line that features Mikko Koivu centering Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. Though the lineup shuffle didn't prevent a 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday night, there were definite positives for the Wild, starting with Parise taking 10 shots and netting his first two goals of the season.
ST. PAUL—A little more than a week into a nascent NHL career, the Auston Matthews bandwagon is moving full steam ahead. Next stop, St. Paul. Matthews and the Maple Leafs will be at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night to play the Wild. "Anyone that can go watch Auston Matthews play needs to go watch Auston Matthews play," said Toronto-based sports radio personality Matthew Cauz. "That kid is no doubt a star in the making."
ST. LOUIS—When Bruce Boudreau was hired as the Wild's head coach in May, the numbers told the story, and it was an interesting one: eight division titles in 10 seasons as a head coach; more than 200 victories with two different franchises; a 1-7 record in postseason Game 7s. Since training camp started last month, the narrative has changed somewhat because of Boudreau's outsized personality, which has endeared him to the media but sometimes confused his players.