ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Boudreau knows he can only do so much to avoid slump after bye week

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The remarkably slump-proof Minnesota Wild will have their season-long stability challenged next week.

That’s when the Western Conference leaders come back from their bye, the five-day gap on every team’s schedule gained by the NHL Players Association as a concession for the new All-Star Game format.

The league’s current cumulative post-bye record is a woeful 4-12-4 with 10 teams, including the Wild, yet to test their ability to avoid coming back rusty. Coaches and managers around the NHL have not hidden their disdain for the debut of the scheduling quirk amid the grind of an 82-game season where momentum is an intangible benefit.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t sound worried, even after losing Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, the lead chaser in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.

“I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey,” Boudreau said. “For 4+ months now, you guys have done a tremendous job, and we’ve got something special going on, potentially. So it’s great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there. Not like, `Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.’ You’ve got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we’ll be fine.”

For the players on this team, the best in Wild history, letting body and mind melt away at a tropical beach with a significant postseason run in plain sight is a rather unfathomable scenario.

“What kind of message can you really give `em?” Boudreau said. “I mean, they’re 39-14.”

Including the six overtime or shootout losses, the Wild have 84 points to rank one behind the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. They’ve played one fewer game than the Blackhawks and lead their playoffs nemesis by five points. The Wild need 21 points in their last 23 games to beat the 2006-07 franchise record.

Boudreau inherited a team that qualified for the postseason in each of the last four years but endured wild swings in its quality of play during the five seasons in which Mike Yeo was the head coach. This time, the Wild are 14-3-2 following a loss, either regulation or extra time, to stop those long losing streaks in their tracks.

“I think that’s due to our depth and our understanding of how we need to play and being able to get big plays from everybody,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said recently. “We believe we can win every game. We feel we should win every game. And so when we lose one, we get back to what we’ve been doing.”

The next challenge comes Monday when the Los Angeles Kings visit Xcel Energy Center. Perhaps losing to the Blackhawks will prove to be good timing, particularly given the way the Wild overcame a sluggish second period to finish strong and nearly rally to tie the game before an empty-netter gave Jonathan Toews and Chicago a 5-3 victory.

“We wanted to go into the break with a good feeling, so that one is going to hurt a little bit,” right wing Mikael Granlund said. “We know we have to make sure we recharge our batteries and come back stronger.”

Wild shut down Ducks in Boudreau’s return to Anaheim

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Even as the Minnesota Wild continued to pile up points in the standings in recent weeks, coach Bruce Boudreau was still concerned with some of the trends he had seen developing over the past few games.

He had to be pretty happy with the way his team played on Sunday night in his first game back in Anaheim since he he was fired by the Ducks after the 2015-16 season.

The Wild were 2-1 winners on Sunday night thanks to a clinical defensive performance that completely shut down the Ducks offense and helped Minnesota win for the 14th time in the past 16 games.

The win also allowed them to keep pace with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division race. After Sunday the Wild remain two points behind Chicago for the top spot in the division but have still have four games in hand.

Keep in mind that Boudreau has won seven division titles in his seven full seasons as an NHL head coach, as well as his first partial season in Washington. The only year he did not win a division title in the NHL is the 2011-12 season when he was fired after 22 games in Washington and finished the season with Anaheim.

The loss for Anaheim snaps what had been a three-game winning streak and prevented them from moving into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

After giving up at four goals in four consecutive games and five of their past six the Wild were not only able to limit the Ducks to just a single goal on Sunday, but also only 24 shots on goal. Ryan Suter, one of the featured players in Sunday’s game, had an especially strong performance in his 29 minutes of ice-time and was a key cog in the Wild’s defensive dominance.

Defensemen Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon provided the goals for the Wild in the win, while Ducks forward Ryan Kesler scored their lone goal.

Dumba’s goal tied the game during a 5-on-3 midway through the second period and it did not please Ducks goalie John Gibson. During the play Gibson’s mask had been knocked loose and he was clearly trying to get the attention of the referees to get a whistle. They did not oblige. Gibson did not get his whistle until Dumba’s one-timer ended up in the back of the net.

NHL on NBCSN: Boudreau ‘nervous’ about going back to Anaheim

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Tonight will be the first edition of “Star Sunday” on NBCSN. The special feature will take place most Sunday’s throughout the rest of the regular season, and it will focus on one NHL superstar on each of the teams playing that night.

NBCSN will provide special access to pre-game player arrivals and interviews, exclusive pre-game features and “get to know” segments, which should be a whole lot of fun.

This evening’s  game will feature Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter.

“Ryan Kesler is smart in identifying matchups, and getting opponents off their game by being physical and nasty,” said NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.” Ryan Suter is sneaky strong – not terribly large, but very tough to move, and doesn’t get beat very often in the corners. I’ll be watching for that when they’re on the ice together, to see how Suter and Kesler respond to the physical challenge from one another.”

Now, let’s get to the game.

The Wild are coming off a 4-3 OT loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, and if you think head coach Bruce Boudreau was satisfied with the loser point, guess again.

“I would rather have the other point,” Boudreau told the Minneapolis StarTribune. “Those are good accomplishments for one minute or one day, and everybody forgets about them. There’s only one accomplishment that you really want to get that people remember, and that’s the final one. That’s the one that counts.”

The Wild had their 12-game winning streak come to an end after they dropped a decision to the Blue Jackets on Dec.31, but Boudreau’s been frustrated with his team’s play since before the defeat on New Year’s Eve.

“I don’t like the trends that are happening in the last six games. If we want to be a legitimate good team, we’ve got to correct these things.”

There’s a good chance he’s referencing the team’s overall defensive game, which has slipped in the last little while. Minnesota has given up at four goals in each of their last four contests. They may be 2-1-1 during that span, but that can’t continue.

As for Boudreau, he’ll be making his return to Anaheim for the first time since being fired by the team last April.

“I’d lie to you if I wasn’t going to be nervous coming back,” Boudreau said, per the OC Register. “I was nervous coming back to Washington for the first time. I’m excited about it. You build up a lot of friendships in 4 1/2 years in one spot.”

The Ducks settled on Randy Carlyle as their new head coach and the results have started to come. They’ve won three straight games and are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 50 points (the Sharks have a game in hand).

One of the reasons the Ducks have been able to find some consistency in their game is because they’ve been getting some solid goaltending from both John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier.

With the off-season trade of Frederik Andersen to Toronto, Gibson was sort of handed the starting job. He got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to come around. He’s won three in a row and four of his last five. He hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Dec. 17.

“You don’t win without quality goaltending in the NHL,” Carlyle said after Friday’s win over Arizona. “(Gibson) and (Bernier) have both given us NHL quality goaltending. As I stated earlier, they would be 1A and 1B. You have to be happy with what they’ve been able to provide for us. Gibby’s been real strong for us as of late.”

Boudreau doesn’t like what he’s seeing from Wild lately

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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It would be an overreaction for Bruce Boudreau to get too worked up after the Minnesota Wild gave up a 2-0 lead and eventually lost 4-3 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings.

After all, this marks just their third loss since Dec. 1, and they’ve failed to generate a standings point in just one game during that run.

Boudreau’s accustomed to regular season success,* however, so his eyes are on the big picture. And in that regard, he doesn’t like what he’s been seeing lately.

Now, some will shrug off those concerns. After all, the Wild are still 4-1-1 in the past six games, a run that would leave most of their peers envious.

When you look a little closer, it’s easier to understand Boudreau’s concern. The Wild have allowed 22 goals over the past six games, with four goals allowed on five of those occasions.

You can find a silver lining with even that – the Wild are scoring goals in these games to grab points and often wins, which was a concern when they seemed to rely on Devan Dubnyk too heavily – but again, Boudreau has higher aims than merely generating regular season success. Coaches focused on the playoffs often try to identify and address problems before they fester into something more permanent.

With a +37 goal differential on the season and a strong chance to catch Chicago for the Central Division crown, the Wild have a lot of reasons for optimism. Credit Boudreau for at least trying to keep them from getting too cocky.

* – It’s fitting that he laughed off clinching his role as the West All-Star coach.

‘If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price, media-wise’ – Boudreau on Dubnyk

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07:  Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild celbrates a win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on April 7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Wild aren’t exactly dominating the NHL, so it might be easy to ignore just how outstanding Devan Dubnyk has been to start the 2016-17 season.

We’re talking “Carey Price and Tuukka Rask territory.”

While his 11-6-3 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, his 1.65 GAA and .946 save percentage are jaw-dropping. With Dubnyk doing special things, Bruce Boudreau felt the need to say weird things* after Dubnyk helped the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday.

“If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise,” Boudreau said after the game, as you can see in this video:

That’s some Haagen-Daz level praise from Boudreau.

Even if Dubnyk was in a bigger market, there’d probably be room in our hockey thoughts for Dubnyk and the consensus best goalie in the world, but Boudreau’s larger point is taken: Dubnyk has been right there with the best early on this season.

And, let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be too hard on Boudreau or he might stop saying … well, things like this:

Never change, Bruce.

* – Unlike his comments about “Die Hard,” which were amusingly on-point.