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December 28, 2013 | 6:55pm ET
Ice Cold December in Minnesota
By David Brown, TheFourthPeriod.com

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The Minnesota Wild had a picture perfect November until injuries crept into the lineup late in the month.

The Wild had two high-flying lines, a hard-nosed defensive third line, and dominant goaltending. December was the polar opposite and they’re now outside the Western Conference playoff picture.

Mikael Granlund was injured, Zach Parise was injured and Josh Harding saved the day until his multiple sclerosis’s medications needed some work. Their struggles on the road continued to get worse and now they enter the holiday break losing five of their last seven games, both wins needed the shootout at home.

Last season, Matt Cullen was injured and the wheels fell off at the end of the regular season for the Wild because they became a one-line team. This season, Granlund’s injury caused another second line carousel.

Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville were giving the Wild the second line depth that is so vital in the NHL. It allowed Charlie Coyle to return to right wing on the top line with captains Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise after Coyle’s knee injury, but only for a short time, because he was the second line center in Granlund’s absence.

Then Zach Parise went down with a foot injury at the end of November, and came back before expected; he’s a minus-6 since the injury. His first six games back from the injury he was effective, scoring three goals and an assist, but clearly it got progressively worse again or he reinjured it because he was not in the lineup for their final game before the break and will not be in the lineup after the break.

Harding went on the injured reserve following a Wild shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks. Niklas Backstrom has gone 0-3, yielding 13 goals, since Harding went on the IR.

The Wild are 6-11-3 on the road this season, eight of those games were played in December, and five of their last seven games in November were on the road.

Zenon Konopka said after a home win, “Time to go win some games on the road.”

Unfortunately for the Wild, it’s more of a mental game now. Fans haven’t seen the Wild lose on home ice since November 29, so their road problems have to be frustrating watching from afar.

"I think it's a good time for the break," said Kyle Brodziak. "I think we need a few days to really find what we need to do and what every guy individually needs to do and however we need to do it to break out of whatever funk we're in right now."

The offensive numbers for the Wild are glaringly bad, top to bottom for the roster since their struggles began, but head coach Mike Yeo knows it’s this group that will get them out of this hole.

“This is the same group that's going to get us out of it," Yeo said following the 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Obviously, the health of Parise, Granlund and Harding are key to the Wild turning things around, but the inconsistent scoring of the youngsters will also be worrisome for the Wild brass. Their biggest critics knew scoring would be difficult for the young forwards of Coyle, Niederreiter, Granlund, Justin Fontaine and Jason Zucker, so it’s the veterans that need to step up or perhaps GM Chuck Fletcher will look to the wire for some proven goal scoring.

Right now is the perfect time for the Wild to have the holiday break; extra time to get healthy, time to clear their heads and more importantly four of the Wild’s first five games after the break are at home, a chance to get their confidence back and try to get on a hot streak again.

David Brown is the Minnesota Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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