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Wild not showing ‘the will and the want’ to get into playoffs

Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau watches from the bench during the third period of the March 14 game against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center. The Stars defeated the Wild 4-1. David Berding / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL -- A year ago the Minnesota Wild were money at home, turning the Xcel Energy Center into a distinct home-ice advantage that made visitors vulnerable to the delight of sellout crowds who packed the arena every game.

Those sellout crowds are still pouring into the building, but more often than not lately, they have been showering boos on their underperforming home team while visitors more often than not chortle out of town with two easy points.

Friday, March 15, was a day of reckoning for the backpedaling Wild, who were put on notice by their head coach that the team’s performances at the X have become unacceptable.

“I wish I knew the home answer,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We were second in the league, only six (regulation) losses at home last year. If we had that same kind of record now, we’d be fighting for first place and the Presidents Trophy. It’s ridiculous. These people deserve to see good hockey and we haven’t given them a lot of it at home lately.”

Thursday’s ugly 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars was Minnesota’s third straight at home and plunged the Wild to 1-6-3 in its past 10 home games, including Monday’s 3-0 shutout loss to San Jose. They have been outscored 18-3 in the past six defeats and have not won in regulation in St. Paul since Jan. 19.

The Wild started Friday three points behind Arizona for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference with games Saturday and Sunday looming against the Rangers and Islanders, respectively, before their five-game homestand concludes Tuesday against Colorado.

“I don’t have an answer for what’s going on at home, but it’s not acceptable, it’s not good,” said winger Jason Zucker. “We’ve prided ourselves at being great at Xcel for years. Every year I’ve ever been here we’ve been great at home. It’s a bit shocking and something we’re going to have to shore up starting (Saturday) night.”

Boudreau buttonholed several players on the ice at Tria Rink on Friday to deliver specific messages to each one. But the overall message was one of urgency, surprising given that there are only 11 games remaining for a team that is battling for a playoff spot.

“There were a lot of messages sent to a lot of players today,” he said. “Hopefully we see the fruit of that tomorrow.”

Boudreau said it is mostly about self-preparation, again something that theoretically should not have to be preached 70-plus games into the season.

“They know how to play. It’s the will and the want,” Boudreau said. “You have the will to win more battles and you want to win more than the other team. Obviously, in the last game that wasn’t very evident. I can’t make someone work. That comes from within.”

Boudreau figures it will take 90 points to make the playoffs. That leaves the Wild with 16 more to earn, or eight victories in their final 11 games.

“The sense of urgency is three weeks ago,” Boudreau said. “It’s not an impossible feat. It’s not saying you need 14 wins in 14 games. If we get to that point, then we will have gone down fighting or have made it. And we’ll go into the playoffs feeling good about the way we’re playing.”

Briefly

Center Joel Eriksson Ek remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, but Boudreau was more optimistic about his prognosis after talking to the training staff.

“He’s getting better. It could still be a long thing, but it was encouraging this morning,” he said. “We’ll see after the weekend how it is.”

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