Wild coach Dean Evason summed up his team’s position Saturday, and he looked like he couldn’t believe it.
“What have we lost, six games in a row? he told reporters after a morning practice at the TRIA rink. “We’ve lost six games in a row.”
And to be fair, disbelief is not an inappropriate reaction to Minnesota starting the 2023-24 season 5-9-4. Even if you suspected the Wild would miss Matt Dumba and be saddled with his dead salary cap hit of $14.7 million, the fourth-fewest points in the NHL seems serious.
Evason knows it looks bad, it’s bad, but said wallowing in the misery of being seven points out of a playoff spot at Thanksgiving isn’t the answer.
“We had a good conversation with the group today,” he told reporters, “and I don’t know what you’re writing about or what you’re talking about, but it’s absolutely negative around everything. But “We can’t be negative. If we continue like this, we won’t get through this.”
Alternate captain Marcus Foligno said as much after Friday night’s 3-2 loss to Central Division rival Colorado at the Xcel Energy Center.
“We just have to keep our heads down and keep moving forward,” said Foligno, who missed Saturday’s practice for what Evason calls maintenance. “It’s cliché to say that, but it’s still too early. We know something is going to break out here, something is going to happen and we are going to start getting more wins.
After practice in St. Paul, the Wild left for Detroit, where they will face the Red Wings in a faceoff Sunday at 1 p.m. There are stats to explain where the team is, good and bad. They still have the worst power play in the NHL (67.2 percent), but have tightened up their defense, with their goals allowed down after holding their opponents to a 2.75 average over their last four games. .
The more important truth, however, is that the Wild haven’t won a game since beating the Islanders 4-2 on Nov. 7 in New York.
“This cannot continue,” Evason said. “We have to believe it won’t happen, but we have to do things to push ourselves through it. And our group will do it.
Goligoski back in the lineup
There were some adjustments during practice, including Alex Goligoski leading the second power play unit, meaning the veteran defenseman will play Sunday for the first time since October 14. He lined up Saturday with fellow veteran Zach Bogosian.
“I feel good health-wise and everything,” said Goligoski, who had his fibula shattered by a shot during practice Oct. 16 in Montreal. “It sucks not playing, doing rehab and everything, but I’m excited to get back and hopefully ignite a spark and get something going.”
At this time last season, the Wild went on a 15-5-0 run to return to playoff position and finished the regular season with 103 points, the fourth-best total in franchise history.
“I have no doubt that many times throughout the season we’re going to have a few stretches this season where we’re on that roll and winning eight or 10 games in a row,” he said. “There’s a lot of character in this room.”
Evason and his team also traded forwards Pat Maroon and Freddy Gaudreau on Saturday, moving Gaudreau to the fourth line with Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime, and Maroon with Ryan Hartman and Marcus Foligno.
Goalkeeper Marc-André Fleury missed training due to illness. Evason said he expected Foligno to be available on Sunday but was unsure about Fleury and said the team was debating naming a goalkeeper to back up Filip Gustavsson.