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Updated: February 6th, 2014 11:04pm
Wetmore: Wild check out for Olympic break, but not a moment too soon

Wetmore: Wild check out for Olympic break, but not a moment too soon

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
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ST PAUL, Minn. -- The Wild took off for the Olympic break Thursday night - but not a minute too early.

It took overtime to dispatch the Nashville Predators, 3-2, at home, but to the Wild's credit, they didn't have one foot out the door in the extra period.

"We're all mature enough that we understood we had a game still before. I don't think that was ever a concern about guys thinking about their flights tomorrow or their plans for the break," Zach Parise said.

After falling on desperate times in late December and getting rocked by injuries, the Wild have steadied the ship and sail into the Olympic break with an 11-4-2 record in 2014.

The goal-scorers Thursday - Parise, Jonas Brodin and Nino Niederreiter - constitute two Olympians and a notable snub. Brodin was left off Team Sweden, but the other two Wild members to register tallies now will board the plane for Russia.

Niederreiter will play for the Swiss Team, and he undressed his roommate-to-be for the overtime winner.

Neiderreiter carried the puck in the offensive zone and put on a display with some shifty stickwork to get by Roman Josi, his Swiss roommate during the Olympics. Neiderreiter created enough space to fire off a pretty wrister passed Carter Hutton to send the Wild fans home happy.

"Definitely it feels great I got the goal against [Josi], but obviously it was a big win for us," Niederreiter said, before taking a playful jab. "I might mention it but I'm not sure he'll be happy about it."

Parise, who will captain Team USA in Sochi, Russia, said those who will skate in The Games will get an added bonus.

"It'll be positive," Parise said. "I think that pace of the game, it's so good for a player to play at that level with all those good players at that speed and that type of intensity.

"From my experience last time, then you come back and you just feel so good about your game and the way you're playing. It's almost as if everything comes a little slower when you come back, it's great."

The break comes at a good time for the Wild, who likely will get captain Mikko Koivu back when play resumes the first week of March. The Wild will play 15 games in March, including 14 in 24 days. Minnesota has several players that are playing well, like goalie Darcy Kuemper, but the mental break could prove beneficial.

"It's a long break so the first bit you want to take some time off and not think about hockey and just refresh the brain a little bit so you can come back reloaded," Kuemper said. "It's going to be a push down the stretch here. Just [hope to] take advantage of this break, stay in shape and come back refreshed."

He's gone from disappointment to a bit of a savior lately for the Wild, who have had rotten luck keeping starting goalies healthy.

"There's definitely been some adversity. It takes a whole group to step up when certain players go down and your top guys go out. Obviously we're starting to get them back and that's only going to help our team," Kuemper said.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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