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Updated: January 6th, 2014 4:41pm
Zulgad: Rash of injuries to stars may cool down Mike Yeo's hot seat

Zulgad: Rash of injuries to stars may cool down Mike Yeo's hot seat

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Wild trailed the Washington Capitals 2-0 after the opening period of Saturday night's game at Xcel Energy Center and had been outshot by the embarrassing margin of 11-1.

This type of performance on home ice could only mean one thing: The Mike Yeo Watch was back on.

The watch had been temporarily put on hold two nights earlier when the Wild ended a franchise-record streak of six consecutive losses in regulation with a 4-1 win against the dreadful Buffalo Sabres at the X.

However, a potential 1-3 home stand against the Islanders, Blues, Sabres and Caps might have left owner Craig Leipold and general manager Chuck Fletcher feeling as if they had no choice but to make a mid-season change.

Yeo must have realized that it would be best to go down swinging because he reportedly let loose with a verbal barrage in the locker room after the first period and again on the bench before the second period began. The fact he had to remind his players to wake up in the midst of this porous stretch is an indictment of someone but I'm not sure if it's Yeo or his players.

Yeo must be given credit, though, because the approach worked.

The Wild, despite being outshot 30-11 for the game, got three goals from defenseman Ryan Suter over the final two periods and one apiece from Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker en route to a 5-3 win.

This means Yeo will be behind the bench as the Wild opens a two-game West Coast swing to face the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday and Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

What's unclear is if Yeo Watch will continue or should be forgotten for now.

The Wild, already without first-line winger Zach Parise (foot) for six games, added defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) to the injured reserve before Saturday's game.

Spurgeon had been promoted to play with Suter on the Wild's top defensive unit just before he was injured against the Sabres. Yeo told reporters that Spurgeon is expected to miss a few weeks.

The situation went from pretty darn bad to the "you have to be kidding me, this is Timberwolves-like bad news" level on Monday.

Top-line center Mikko Koivu, who had been hit in the skate with a puck in the second period Saturday and missed a portion of the third, was placed on IR and the Wild later announced he had undergone Mikko Koivu" href="http://www.1500espn.com/sportswire/Wild_announce_Monday_morning_ankle_surgery_for_captain_Mikko_Koivu010614" target="_blank">surgery to repair a fractured ankle.

Meanwhile, Josh Harding, who has gone from Niklas Backstrom's backup to one of the most valuable goalies in the NHL this season, went on IR after missing the past two games because of an illness.

Harding's battle with multiple sclerosis makes his success this season one of the great stories in sports, but there is no denying there has to be concern about when he'll be available to play again.

He missed a road trip in December so his treatment could be adjusted and while the Wild are not releasing details of this most recent trip to IR, it's impossible not to assume that it's related to MS.

This means the Wild will open this trip without two-thirds of their top line, without a top-four defenseman and without their number one goalie.

It's uncertain when any will return and that means winning hockey games likely will continue to be a challenge for Yeo's team.

Only, with this many injuries, it might be difficult to continue blaming the coach.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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