Jason Brough

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11:  Head coach Mike Yeo of the Minnesota Wild looks on from the bench during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 11, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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‘Desperation time’ has arrived for the Wild

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These next four days could be telling ones for the Minnesota Wild.

Already losers of four straight in regulation, the Wild play tonight in Anaheim (on NBCSN), tomorrow in Los Angeles and Saturday in San Jose.

The Ducks are 6-3-1 in their last 10. The Kings are 7-2-1. The Sharks are 6-3-1.

The Wild? They’re 3-5-2.

But you don’t have to tell coach Mike Yeo what the situation has become, or what it could become. He’s fully aware, thank you very much.

“I’m not sitting here saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe what’s going on,'” Yeo told reporters. “This is what we have to deal with, so we deal with it. We would have liked to have had a mulligan on the last three weeks, but I don’t think they’re going to give us that.”

The Wild return home from California to play Arizona on Monday, then it’s the All-Star break. After that, they hit the road again for games at the Islanders, Rangers, and Blues.

Though Minnesota is still in decent shape standings-wise…

standings

…with the upcoming schedule the Wild are facing, the players understand there’s the potential for things to get pretty uncomfortable.

“We can’t wait around until it’s desperation time,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk. “It needs to be desperation time now.”

Related: Slumping Wild hitting ‘tough’ part of schedule

Sharks owner is ‘really concerned’ about lagging attendance

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The other night against the Oilers, the San Jose Sharks announced the attendance at just 15,379.

It was the second-smallest crowd of the season at SAP Center, which has a capacity of 17,562 for hockey. And as noted by CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, “the number of fans in the building appeared to be far fewer.”

Yesterday, Sharks owner Hasso Plattner did something he rarely does — he spoke to the media.

And yes, he’s worried about the level of fan interest in San Jose.

“I’m really concerned about the situation,” he said. “If you don’t have enough demand, the season-ticket holders can’t sell the tickets if they are not available to go. So that has a double-negative effect. And obviously for everybody to be in an arena that shows a surplus of empty seats is not very encouraging, even for the playoffs. So this is not good, but there’s only so much you can do.

“We have several programs in order to improve attendance. I have asked and we will discuss this in the next weeks, probably to increase our focus on young fans. We probably have grown in these 25 years all a little bit older. The Sharks were the new kid on the block 25 years ago. I remember days when I couldn’t get a scalped ticket because we were more than sold out.”

Plattner, one of the richest men in the world, isn’t going to go broke if the Sharks struggle at the gate. He famously joked a few years ago, “You cannot make money with a hockey team. You cannot make money with a hotel, either, and you cannot make money with a golf club. I have all three of them.”

That being said, there’s no doubt the franchise could use some positive momentum. Ever since the Sharks blew that 3-0 series lead to the Kings in 2014, it’s been a tough go. Meanwhile, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors have become one of the hottest brands in all of pro sports.

Plattner talked about how important it was for the Sharks to get back to the playoffs.

“For sure this is the goal for the season,” he said. “And then the real season starts.”

Sharks put Ben Smith on waivers

 

The San Jose Sharks have placed forward Ben Smith on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Smith has only appeared in six games for the Sharks this season, failing to register a point. Early on, he missed 18 games with a concussion.

In December, the 27-year-old forward was assigned to the AHL for a brief conditioning stint. He’s played two NHL games since, receiving very limited ice time. His last appearance was on Dec. 22 when he logged just 4:51 against the Kings.

Smith was acquired last season in a trade with Chicago, with Andrew Desjardins going the other way.

The Sharks did not need to waive Smith to make room for Raffi Torres, who has already been added to the active roster.

If Smith clears waivers and is sent to the AHL, it would open up a roster spot (the Sharks are currently at the maximum 23 active players) and clear some cap space.

Smith is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The ‘big boys haven’t been converting’ for Dallas

Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn
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That “first true test of adversity” Tyler Seguin was talking about a couple of weeks ago?

Yeah, the Dallas Stars are still taking that test.

The Stars lost 3-2 last night in Los Angeles. They’re now 1-5-2 in January. Their only victory this month came over the Jets, and they needed the shootout to get it. The last time they beat anyone in regulation was Dec. 31.

What’s going on, coach?

“I think the biggest thing is our big boys haven’t been converting,” Lindy Ruff told reporters. “It’s tough on the rest of the lineup when they’re not on the scoresheet. When they’re on the scoresheet, we’re gonna win games. They’re having a little bit of a tough time right now. I thought there was opportunities there to finish, just didn’t quite get ‘er done.”

We all know who Ruff is talking about when he says the “big boys.” Seguin has two goals and one assist in January. Jamie Benn has two goals and two assists. Not the greatest production from those two. But not exactly the worst ever, either.

Perhaps more glaring is the fact Dallas has surrendered 29 goals in January. That’s 3.6 per game. Which makes it very tough to win in the NHL.

The Stars return home to face Edmonton on Thursday.

The Canucks were going to scratch Prust, but it’s a ‘delicate dance’

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Brandon Prust #9 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The original plan was for 19-year-old Jake Virtanen to replace 31-year-old Brandon Prust.

But when the Vancouver Canucks take on the Rangers tonight at MSG, Virtanen will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game and Prust will be in the lineup to take on his former team.

Why the change by coach Willie Desjardins?

Canucks president Trevor Linden was asked about it today on TSN 1040 radio (audio).

“It wasn’t the plan,” said Linden of the decision to sit Virtanen. “We deviated for other reasons. It’s not ideal, obviously. He’s a young guy that was playing well, but we’re changing things up tonight. He’ll be back in against Boston (on Thursday).”

And what were those “other reasons”?

“Obviously, there was some talk about Brandon Prust coming out,” said Linden. “And being at his former team, we thought it’d be the right thing to have him in. As a coach, you want to do the right thing for your room sometimes.”

So, did Desjardins change his mind after he saw the way Prust reacted? Because, according to what was reported on the radio station, Prust didn’t take the healthy scratching very well.

“No, I just think, in retrospect, you have other thoughts, maybe you go down a certain path and you go back,” said Linden. “It’s a delicate dance with the coach and his group and his room [with] maybe the ideas that we may have, so we try to manage those things.”

Translation: management wanted Virtanen, the sixth overall draft pick in 2014, to play. But the coach, for “delicate dance”-related reasons, opted for the veteran over the rookie.

Prust, by the way, is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Related: The Canucks are going to be rather young tonight