X marks the spot for surging Wild
ST. PAUL -- Sweet home Minnesota, where the losses are so few.
Xcel Energy Center has always been the Minnesota Wild’s sixth man, but the building also is a destination for opposing players to visit. The ice is renowned for its quality. The house is always packed. And the Wild traditionally have been a tough opponent.
“What player wouldn’t want to play in front of a crowd like that?” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau mused before their game Tuesday night, Nov. 27, against the Arizona Coyotes.
Even if it’s hostile?
“We used to love hostile crowds. Corey Perry lived off that. He wanted to get booed every shift,” said Boudreau, who coached the Anaheim Ducks’ rugged right-winger.
That might be the case, but the X is a major factor in the Wild’s hot start. They are 8-2-2 at home this season and 35-8-10 since the start of the 2017-18 season. No NHL team has fewer regulation losses.
“I remember it was a tough building to come in to, and you were in for a grind,” said center Eric Fehr, a 16-year veteran with stops in Washington, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Toronto and San Jose “You’re not going to get any freebies on offense. Now, when we get going, the crowd gets behind us, it’s really exciting.”
The Wild are 6-0 when tied after two periods and 2-6-1 when trailing.
“It’s obviously not ideal, something we’re going to work on to try to resolve,” said Fehr. “The good thing is we we’ve been able to come back. We’re learning how to play in these games. You’re going to have these situations down the stretch or in the playoffs. It’s important for us to know we have that ability to come back.”Lines static
Boudreau kept Nino Niederreiter on the fourth line with Fehr and J.T. Brown, unwilling to tinker with a winning lineup.
Niederreiter was demoted to the fourth-line against the Jets as a wake-up call. He responded with a goal and assist on Fehr’s tying goal.
“Not taking anything away from Nino, he tries hard every game,” Boudreau said. “We just need that on a consistent basis more than just once in a little while.”
Meanwhile, Boudreau is pleased with the continued development of Brown and Jordan Greenway, who mans right wing on the third line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. Greenway had a goal and assist last week against the Senators.
“I think they’re gaining more confidence every game,” Boudreau said. “We had meetings with both of them. Both feel good about their game. Both feel comfortable in the position they’re in. If they can chip in with some goals, as well, what a bonus it is to this team.”