Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Nick Seeler can trace a lifetime of his best hockey memories to Xcel Energy Center. He watched countless Wild home games there as a kid. He won two Class 2A high school state championships in the building with Eden Prairie. And on Sunday, April 15, he suited up for the Wild in a playoff game with his family watching in the stands. "It was pretty incredible coming out when they introduced the Minnesota Wild and the flags are going," said Seeler, a 24-year-old rookie defenseman with his home-state team. "You kind of get chills. You've got to pinch yourself."
ST. PAUL—Tyler Ennis has been waiting for the better part of a decade to make it back to postseason, so yes, he's a little upset that he remained a healthy scratch for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night, April 15, at the Xcel Energy Center. "It's frustrating," said Ennis, who hasn't played in a postseason game since the 2010-11 season when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres. "I want to be out there. Everyone wants to be out there. I think I can help the team."
ST. PAUL—Wild coach Bruce Boudreau huddled his team together upon the conclusion of a brief 30-minute practice on Saturday afternoon, April 14, at the Xcel Energy Center. With the Wild trailing 0-2 in a best-of-seven series against the rival Winnipeg Jets, the 63-year-old coach tried to keep his players positive, quietly reminding them that they were the second-best home team in the entire league during the regular season.
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Wild rookie Joel Eriksson Ek never saw it coming. Engaged in a one-on-one battle in his own zone in the second period of Game 1 against the Winnipeg Jets, the 21-year-old dropped his head as he tried to rim the puck around the boards. And just like that, Eriksson Ek was flat on his back after taking a bone-crushing hit from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Eriksson Ek briefly retreated to the locker room after the play, but was back on the ice within a few minutes.
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — With the Wild desperately trying to preserve a one-goal lead in the third period of Game 1 against the Winnipeg Jets, it took just two plays in the final minutes to truly feel Ryan Suter's absence on the blue line. The first came on a turnover from Matt Dumba, which led to the game-tying goal from Jets winger Patrik Laine on Wednesday night, April 11. Then another turnover from Carson Soucy led to the winning goal from Jets defenseman Joe Morrow. And just like that, the Wild turned a possible victory into a 3-2 defeat.
WINNIPEG — With the Wild trying to set the tone in their first-round playoff series against the hard-nosed Winnipeg Jets, 21-year-old rookie Jordan Greenway had a chance to lay the boom on veteran Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the opening minutes of Game 1. Greenway, however, stopped short of finishing his check along the boards Wednesday night, looping back the other way and allowing Byfuglien to move the puck up the ice unimpeded. Looking back, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Greenway realizes that's not the way the Wild need him to play the rest of the series.
WINNIPEG — As a self-described hockey junkie, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau loves to flip on the TV and consume as much NHL coverage as possible. Unless, of course, the circumstances are like this week, with the Wild coming in as underdogs on the road for a first-round playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets. Frankly, everywhere the 63-year-old coach looks, he is being told how the Wild don't have a chance in the best-of-seven series.
ST. PAUL — During the drive down I-94 from St. Paul to Chicago, headed to the NHL Draft last June, Bruce Boudreau plopped down next to his good buddy Derek Lalonde on the team bus. Boudreau, who had just wrapped up his first season as coach of the Minnesota Wild, had some words of wisdom for Lalonde, who was coming off his first season as coach of the Iowa Wild.
ST. PAUL — Watching Zach Parise skate up and down the ice the past month for the Minnesota Wild, it is hard to believe that he started this season having to lie down to eat his meals. At 33, he could barely stand, much less walk, without excruciating pain. Surgery six months ago repairs a herniated disk, and look at the Wild's $98 million man now.
ST. PAUL—Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has watched from afar over the years as people playing his position have almost single-handedly carried their teams to the Stanley Cup. Whether it's Jean-Sébastien Giguère with the Anaheim Ducks (2006-07), Tim Thomas with the Boston Bruins (2010-11), Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings (2011-12, 2013-14), or any of the handful of other guys that have done it over the past decade, a hot goaltender is a sure-fire way to hoist the NHL's most prestigious hardware.