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Torchetti keeps mood light in Wild debut

Behind the Minnesota Wild's bench for the first time Monday night, interim head coach John Torchetti caught a few players off guard when he cracked a few jokes.It was Torchetti's attempt to lighten the mood for a team that had lost eight straight...

Behind the Minnesota Wild’s bench for the first time Monday night, interim head coach John Torchetti caught a few players off guard when he cracked a few jokes.
It was Torchetti’s attempt to lighten the mood for a team that had lost eight straight games and its former head coach.
“They’re going to put enough pressure on themselves; I don’t need to add more,” Torchetti explained. “They know I’m always joking.”
The approach seemed to work, as the Wild beat the Canucks 5-2 in Vancouver, British Columbia, their first victory since Jan. 21 in their first game since Mike Yeo was let go after 4½ seasons as Minnesota’s head coach.
But Torchetti, promoted from the Wild’s American Hockey League team in Des Moines, was stern, as well, chiding players for mistakes, such as an offside call on a 2-on-1 rush. His biggest challenge, Torchetti said, is erasing the losing mentality that has settled on a team that until Monday had lost 12 of 13 games.
“It hasn’t been going their way,” Torchetti said Tuesday, a mandated day off for the team. “Last night, we were up 3-1 and (Vancouver) makes it 3-2 when they get a power-play goal off of (Jared) Spurgeon’s leg. It goes in off (Devan) Dubnyk’s stick and I said, ‘Hey, boys. That happens every night. Get used to it. There’s nothing you can do to defend that play. It went off a toe and then off the toe of a stick. It wasn’t something that we could correct. It’s just a play. Now go and get one on your side.’
“What happens next? Charlie (Coyle) goes to the net, throws a puck, it goes off a stick ― and, hey, now we’re even on bad goals.”
Torchetti, 51, spent Sunday, his first full day as interim coach, meeting with every Wild player one-on-one. For the 12 players he coached at Iowa, the time was used to catch up and go over recent play. For those Torchetti hadn’t yet coached ― including Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville ― the meetings were an opportunity to introduce himself.
“I just wanted to let them know what I’m like a little bit before we started off, and then just see what’s up with their game,” he said. “Finding out if there’s something that I can do for them and see what they’re saying about how their game is and how their leadership is on the team and what the locker room is like. Just little intangibles.
“Then OK, it’s a clean slate. Nothing in the past is going to be a part of it. There’s nothing here that’s going to hold your ice time back. The only thing that’s going to hold your ice time back is you, so earn it.”
Torchetti is no stranger to these situations. In 2003-04, he was the Florida Panthers’ interim coach for 27 games (10-12-4-1), and coached the Los Angeles Kings for 12 games (5-7-0) in 2005-06. He replaced Yeo as the Wild’s AHL coach in 2011, spent a year as a head coach in Moscow, then returned to the Wild’s feeder club in 2012.
“This one is the most comfortable transition I’ve made so far,” Torchetti said. “This one was really comfortable because I know pretty much 70 percent of the team. Even the guys I’ve never coached ― I’ve known Mikko just from being here and at training camps and saying hello and at least you’re comfortable that way. It’s not like we’re starting fresh.”
-- Parise worked hard to score a first-period goal, and Coyle added a crucial goal on a second-period power play in the Wild’s win over Vancouver.
“To get rewarded for hard work, all of us were excited and happy for each other,” said Parise, who ended a nine-game goal-scoring drought. “There was life in the room and on the bench.
“Guys played hard, guys competed. I thought we were a tough team to play against.”
Spurgeon had a goal and assist for Minnesota (24-22-10). Right wings Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine of Minnesota Duluth also scored, while center Erik Haula and Suter had two assists each for the Wild, who are 2-11-2 in their past 15 games.
Center Henrik Sedin had a power-play goal and an assist for Vancouver (22-22-12). Defenseman Chris Tanev also scored on the power play for the Canucks, who have lost five straight at home.

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