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Updated: March 22nd, 2014 8:38pm
Myers: Wild caught in slump, but still in command of playoff chances

Myers: Wild caught in slump, but still in command of playoff chances

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by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com

The calendar says its spring in Minnesota. And like they've done a few times now under head coach Mike Yeo, the Minnesota Wild are struggling to win games in the spring.

But the weather outside feels more like January than March, which could lead one to question if it's really spring. And the Wild, despite winning only two of their last nine games, are still solidly in command of their (very good) playoff chances. So are they really struggling?

That turned into a kind of philosophical debate Saturday afternoon in the wake of the Wild's 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The Wild definitely came out on the short end, and that's been rare. Or maybe it's been happening a lot. It depends on who you talk to.

"How did I know that that was coming?," Yeo joked, when asked about the whole 'two wins in nine games" thing. "It's a matter of perspective, too. You could also say that we've got a point in nine of our last 11 games. You could also say that that was our first regulation loss in 11 games at home. You could also say that we're 7-3-4 in our last 14 games."

So, it's all good? Well, no that's not the message either. But Yeo and company insist this isn't a replay of 2013, when the Wild were cold as ice for the last month of the regular season and just barely made the playoffs.

"We're not completely happy or satisfied, believe me. But at the same time what I hope is that we don't try to turn this into a big story of 'Oh, no, here we go again,' because I can tell you that inside the room that we don't have that feeling," Yeo said. "We're a different team. We're a confident team, and we feel good about where we're going. We just have to jump start things a little bit right now."

What's significant is the thought that by all accounts, some of the things that happened Saturday afternoon were perfect jump-start material. Like captain Mikko Koivu, who became the franchise's all-time leading scorer a few days ago on an East Coast road trip, getting the Wild on the board early with a power play goal. With 14 points in the Wild's last 15 games, nobody can question what the captain is doing on the ice to lead this team.

Trailing 2-1 in the third, the Wild tied the game on a penalty shot goal by Charlie Coyle. The lanky center started 2014 on fire, but had just two points in the Wild's last 19 games before beating Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard with a nifty backhand move to tie the game.

The Wild hopped on a plane right after the game, headed for Michigan and a rematch with the Red Wings on Sunday night. They're playing five of the next six on the road, which is a tough way to go when a trip to the playoffs is at stake. But showing his different perspective once again, Yeo said they're looking only forward, not back and are focused not just on late March, but on April, May and maybe even June.

"We're trying to build for something. We don't want to just make the playoffs; we want to do something in the playoffs," Yeo said. "We're not satisfied with just getting a few points here or there; we're not satisfied with just being a playoff team at the end of the year. We want to be a team that every night goes out and dictates the game and controls the play, and we want to carry that momentum into the playoffs."

By getting at least a point in 12 of their last 15 games, the Wild are still a very strong bet to get into the playoffs. Whether they'll have any momentum when they get there remains a matter of perspective.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
In this story: Mikko Koivu, Mike Yeo
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