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Wild got exposed by Flames earlier this season, so GM Bill Guerin made changes

It was obvious that the Wild had to get more physical at the trade deadline and that’s exactly what they did.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild
Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) runs into Minnesota Wild defenseman Jon Merrill (4) in front of the Minnesota goal March 1, 2022. Minnesota Wild center Connor Dewar (52) and Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot (33) also in on the action in the third period at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Flames won 5-1 in that March game, causing Wild GM Bill Guerin to make changes for his team to get tougher.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
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The glass-half full-crowd might call it a turning point. The glass-half-empty crowd might dub it a wakeup call.

Either way, for Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin, a 96-hour stretch against the Calgary Flames a couple of months ago was proof positive that something needed to change.

He watched the Wild get thoroughly outclassed in a 7-3 loss to the Flames on Feb. 26, then came back a few days later to see the Wild follow up that embarrassing effort with 5-1 loss to the Flames on March 1.

It was the first time all season that the Wild looked completely overmatched.

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“It just really exploited some deficiencies we had,” Guerin said. “I remember talking to (Flames general manager) Brad Treliving after the game. They were playing as well as I had seen a team play this season. And it was really sobering for me.”

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The reshuffling started a couple of weeks later when the Wild acquired center Tyson Jost from the Colorado Avalanche. That set off a chain reaction of moves that ultimately netted the Wild winger Nic Deslauriers, defenseman Jake Middleton and, of course, legendary goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

While the addition of Jost brought some added skill to the bottom half of the lineup, the addition of the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Deslauriers and the 6-3, 220-pound Middleton reeked of a team trying to get stronger.

As far as Guerin was concerned, the Wild getting pushed around in back-to-back losses to the Flames was a microcosm of a bigger issue. It was a clear indication that the Wild weren’t ready for the playoffs, which explains why Guerin made the moves he did.

The game between the Wild (51-22-7, 109 points) and Flames (50-20-10, 110 points) on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center marked the first time the two teams have met since those moves. How does Guerin think everything has worked out so far?

“I think it’s been great,” he said. “I give the guys who were here a lot of credit because they created this culture and atmosphere that’s really welcoming and they bring guys in and it’s like they’ve been here forever. And I give the guys that came in around the trade deadline a bunch of credit because they’ve come in and dove right in and bought into everything that’s been going on around here.”

Briefly

Jared Spurgeon (upper-body injury), Matt Dumba (upper-body injury), and Mats Zuccarello (lower-body injury) all participated in morning skate. While none of them played in the game against the Flames on Thursday night, there’s a chance all of them could play in the regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

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