Almost in anonymity, Minnesota keeps rolling.
The NHL standings leader completed a sweep of its four-game West Coast road trip when it upended Phoenix 4-1 Saturday night.
The Wild have won seven in a row overall, seven in a row on the road and 17 of their last 21 overall to take a four-point lead in the NHL and a five-point lead in the Western Conference.
“There’s a lot of belief right now that we’re for real, and if there’s a reason why we feel that way, it’s because of the way we come to the rink and the way we prepare,” leading goal scorer Kyle Brodziak said. “We’re not where we want to be yet.”
From a work-ethic standpoint, few teams bring it more than the Wild, which has outbattled most opponents this season, has been exceptional defensively and is suddenly scoring — averaging 3.57 goals a game the last seven games.
“It’s fun around these guys and it’s been a lot of fun on this road trip and it’s been a lot of fun the whole year, but we recognize, too,” captain Mikko Koivu said, “when you work hard and get some wins, that’s what makes it fun.”
But yet, the Wild never seems satisfied — a mantra and philosophy set forth by its rookie coach, Mike Yeo. That’s why it never celebrates victories. It just moves on to the next one — the next being Tuesday in Winnipeg.
There’s no lauding the fact it leads the NHL in points.
“The only reason we’re here is we’re not happy with that,” Yeo said. “We’re not satisfied and settling with that.”
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – NOTES, QUOTES
–Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett and Wild coach Mike Yeo coached against each other for the first time Saturday. Yeo played for Tippett for five years with the old International Hockey League Houston Aeros and was Tippett’s captain when the two won a Turner Cup in 1999.
“He wasn’t our best player, but he was one of our most respected for how he played and the sacrifices he made to win,” Tippett said. “He epitomized how our team wanted to be perceived, and that was work ethic and doing things right and finding ways to win. That’s what he’s become as a coach. It’s impressive what that team is doing there.”
Yeo considers Tippett one of his mentors.
“There’s a lot of things I’ve tried to pattern myself off of the way he coaches, the way he deals with people, the way he gets the most out of his team,” Yeo said. “I would love to have a small amount of the success he’s had.
“He did a lot for me, teaching me how to play the game and coming out of junior, what it means to have an identity as a player and role as a player, and more than anything else, how to be a professional, how to prepare.”
–The Wild has the most points in the NHL, and its affiliate Aeros, coached by John Torchetti, are tied for the most points in the American Hockey League.
“It’s a big statement to have both teams at the top of their leagues. It’s hard to do,” said defenseman Nate Prosser, who has split time with both teams. “It’s a good shout out to management. I’m amazed at Houston. Between call-ups and their injuries, their lineup is hardly even the Aeros. It’s crazy.”
–J.B. Spisso, the former Army Ranger, reunited with the Wild before and after Friday’s practice for a talk and activity. It was Spisso who put the Wild through team bonding (“Operation: Urgent Fury”) in Wisconsin before the season.
“This team is exactly what you want in a team. They have a common enemy and they don’t care who gets credit,” Spisso said. “When I talked to them, I noticed they were all focused and all fit. They are all lean. To the man, they are all leaner.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “If you’re lying on the ice for five minutes like that and play the next shift, you’re obviously not that hurt.” — C Kyle Brodziak, on what he felt was embellishment by Los Angeles Kings F Anze Kopitar on Thursday that resulted in a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct for Brodziak.
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – ROSTER REPORT
–LW Cal Clutterbuck missed his second game with a leg injury, but the injury is to his right leg, not the left — the one that kept him out Dec. 2 against New Jersey.
“This gives it three extra days to settle down for Tuesday (in Winnipeg),” Clutterbuck said. “Sit one more out and make sure it gets better rather than force it today and then something else happens and I’m out twice as long.”
He should be ready by next game because the Wild reassigned LW Jeff Taffe after Saturday’s win over Phoenix.
–C Kyle Brodziak didn’t face supplemental discipline for his questionable boarding major and game misconduct in Los Angeles. C Anze Kopitar drew the call, then returned for the power play.
C Mikko Koivu stood up on the bench after the penalty and said, “We’re getting this kill,” coach Mike Yeo said, “and … I believed him.”
The Wild didn’t give up a shot.
“You always want to kill those ones where you feel you got the short end of the stick,” LW Darroll Powe said. “Brodzy just made a hard play. Those are the ones you want to kill for your teammates and guys bear down a little harder.”
Brodziak leads the Wild with 10 goals after his second two-goal game in five games Saturday.
“Why not? Why couldn’t he be?” coach Mike Yeo said of Brodziak leading in goals. “Because of the way he plays — his attention to detail, his commitment to the system — he comes back to the bench and every shift he feels good. He’s confident and you kind of build momentum within your own game.”
–G Josh Harding (whiplash) returned to Minnesota to be seen by team doctors.
–LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and D Marek Zidlicky (concussion) may return to practice Monday.
–G Josh Harding (whiplash) missed his second game Saturday at Phoenix. He returned to Minnesota to be seen by doctors.
–RW Devin Setoguchi (lower body) missed his second game Saturday. He is on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least the next game Tuesday in Winnipeg.
–LW Cal Clutterbuck (leg) missed his third game in the past five Saturday and is day-to-day.
–D Justin Falk (chest) missed his seventh game Saturday and is not on the Wild’s five-game road trip.
–LW Guillaume Latendresse missed his 15th game Saturday, but is skating back in Minnesota and could return to practice Monday.
–D Marek Zidlicky (concussion) missed his 12th game Saturday but is skating back in Minnesota and could return to practice Monday.
–Nick Schultz, Mike Lundin
–Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon
–Clayton Stoner, Greg Zanon
–LW Jeff Taffe, C Mikko Koivu, RW Dany Heatley
–LW Casey Wellman, C Matt Cullen, RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard
–LW Darroll Powe, C Kyle Brodziak, RW Nick Johnson
–LW Colton Gillies, C Cody Almond, RW Brad Staubitz