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Updated: March 28th, 2014 3:34pm
Zulgad: Wild should sound every alarm with playoff hopes in danger

Zulgad: Wild should sound every alarm with playoff hopes in danger

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Mike Yeo was ready for the question.

Shortly after the Wild's 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last Saturday, the coach was asked about the fact his team had only two victories in the past nine games.

Yeo began doing his best to spin the numbers and make a case that the Wild wasn't in the midst of another late-season meltdown.

Yeo pointed out his team had gotten a point in nine of its past 11 games. The Wild had suffered their first regulation loss in 11 games at home. The Wild was 7-3-4 in the past 14 games.

"We're not completely happy or satisfied, believe me," Yeo said. "But at the same time, what I hope is 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, we don't have that feeling."

Six days later, one has to wonder if Yeo is still concerned with how the media is going to shape their stories or if he is now come to the realization his team appears to be in real trouble.

An impressive come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Sunday in Detroit, was followed by 5-2 and 5-1 losses to Vancouver and St. Louis, respectively.

The home loss to a Canucks team that is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs was disturbing. Thursday's setback in St. Louis, however, was a sound the alarm type of defeat.

There is no shame in losing to the Blues, who are atop the NHL standings and have lost only five times in 35 home games. The issue is the manner in which the Wild lost.

Beginning a four-game road trip that includes three teams above them in the playoff standings, the Wild allowed itself to be bullied at every turn by St. Louis.

The Blues might face the Wild in the postseason and wanted to make it clear that not only are they superior in talent but they also are tougher.

The Wild needed to answer by showing some grit themselves. Instead, they turned the other cheek at nearly every turn. It got so bad that goalie Darcy Kuemper finally took matters into his own hands and went face-to-face with the Blues' David Backes.

If Kuemper was expecting to get some backup it never came.

The Wild continues to hold seventh place in the Western Conference standings but their lead over Phoenix for the top wild-card spot is only one point. Dallas is six points behind the Wild but has played two fewer games.

The Wild will play the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday, before facing the Los Angeles Kings (92 points) and Chicago Blackhawks (99) and then returning home to play the Pittsburgh Penguins (97).

After a late-season meltdown nearly cost the Wild a playoff spot a year ago, there is a chance Yeo's team could be in for a repeat performance.

It's a safe to make the assumption that Yeo's job status is being called into question, something that happened early this season when the Wild went into a funk.

Yeo is in the final year of his contract and with the Wild's up-and-down play it's not as if the coach is giving owner Craig Leipold or general manager Chuck Fletcher a concrete reason to retain him.

Yeo has eight games left in the regular season to make the case that he can turn things around and not just get his team in the postseason but also have them playing competitively.

If that doesn't happen, it's not going to matter what type of spin Yeo attempts to put on things because the Wild will be looking for a new 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
In this story: Darcy Kuemper, Mike Yeo
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