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Front office mum as Wild muddle through latest slump

ST. PAUL -- During midseason slumps the past two seasons, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher maintained order by giving coach Mike Yeo a public vote of confidence.

ST. PAUL - During midseason slumps the past two seasons, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher maintained order by giving coach Mike Yeo a public vote of confidence.

That hasn’t happened as the Wild have spiraled out of control in their third midwinter slide in as many years. Fletcher has not spoken with the local media since the NHL all-star break but said Friday he will address the issue during the team’s morning skate Saturday in St. Louis.

Fletcher wasn’t the only Wild executive not talking Friday. Owner Craig Leipold also declined comment a day after the Wild’s ninth loss in 10 games - a 4-2 setback to the New York Rangers in Manhattan on Thursday night.

The Wild then made things worse, losing 4-1 at St. Louis on Saturday.

Yeo was intense and defiant after the losses, which dropped the Wild to 23-20-9 and out of the top eight in the Western Conference.

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Yeo spoke of his team’s “soft plays” and of effort that has been “not good.” But once again, he refused to criticize several of the team’s veteran players even though some have struggled the most during this five-week slump.

“I wouldn’t say that those guys are not responding,” he said.

Yeo has hitched his job and the rest of the Wild’s season to his high-priced, underperforming veterans, who have helped carry him out of similar slumps the past two years. But to date, the core veterans have done little to get the team back on track.

Zach Parise has one point and a minus-11 rating in his past nine games and doesn’t have an assist in his past 15 games. Jason Pominville has one goal and one assist in his past 18 games and is on pace for a career low in goals. Thomas Vanek has zero goals and one assist in his past eight games.

“For sure, we need those guys to … pull us out of it,” Yeo said.

The Wild’s goals Thursday came from a fourth-line forward (Ryan Carter) and 21-year-old defenseman Matt Dumba, whose name is being floated in trade talks.

“What it boils down to,” Yeo said, “is the actor’s got to act. We give a script, but we need guys that want to be out there in every situation.”

Parise’s one point over the past nine games is his longest scoring skid since he signed a 13-year, $89 million deal in July 2012. On Thursday, he was one of eight Wild forwards who did not even take a shot on goal.

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Last year, Fletcher kick-started a midseason rally by acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who backstopped the turnaround by starting 34 straight games. The players say they’re not waiting for a similar personnel move this season, although there is plenty of time before the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

“That’s not up to us,” Parise said. “They’re the ones watching, and they make those decisions. I’ve said it before: If we’re sitting here wasting our time thinking about that, then we’re jamming up our own heads and making it a lot harder on ourselves. You can’t plan on that; you can’t assume it’s going to happen. Because what if it doesn’t? Then we’re just going to quit? We have to play better as a group and a group that’s here right now.”

Each loss – 12 in their past 15 games and three in a row - worsens an already dire situation. One consolation is that the team they’re chasing in the wild-card race – the Nashville Predators (24-20-8) - is struggling, too.

“I just feel like we’re going to find ourselves too far out and we’re not going to be able to catch back up (and) get in the playoffs,” veteran defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We’ve been fortunate where when we lost, the other teams (ahead of us) lost, so it didn’t set us back too far. That’s going to catch up with us. So we’ve got to figure it out fast.”

“There’s always an answer; you just have to find it,” Yeo said. “The answer in my eyes is going to come through me. That’s what we need from everybody inside the locker room, as well. It’s easy right now to look around; we could all look around and I could point to a player who’s not doing their job. … But the reality is, until we dig a little bit deeper and find something more that we can give, then it’ll be a similar script.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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