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Dearth of scoring, lack of focus continue to doom Minnesota

Hot and not

AtkinsonCam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Atkinson notched his third career hat trick (his first this season) in the Blue Jackets' 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.


CondonMike Condon, Montreal Canadiens
Condon continues to struggle along with most of the rest of his teammates, allowing four goals on 24 shots in the loss to Columbus. Condon has now taken the loss in four of his past five starts.


Is it time to worry about the Minnesota Wild?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Should we be concerned about the Minnesota Wild? The All-Star break could not come soon enough for the Wild, who dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to Arizona on Monday night to finish January with just three wins in 13 games (3-7-3). The problem once again was offense. Minnesota outplayed and outshot (24-6 through two periods) the Coyotes but just couldn't finish. We know Wild GM Chuck Fletcher tried to get in on the Ryan Johansen market and has talked to Tampa Bay about Jonathan Drouin (like many other teams). Some of the offensive answers have to come from within, but a trade to acquire top-six help -- perhaps using some of the organization's excellent blue-line depth -- might be the boost this team needs. Thoughts?


Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: The Wild are making me look bad and, believe me, I don't need any help in that category. I picked the Wild to win the Central Division in our preseason poll, but that clearly won't be the case. Losing seven of its past eight games, including five on home ice, does not bode well for Minnesota. I agree, Pierre, that this brief hiatus is exactly what the Wild need right now. No way Minnesota should have lost that game to the Coyotes, and if the Wild continue to squander chances like that, especially when they dominate an opponent, they could be in danger of missing the playoffs. As of now, Minnesota still holds the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and I still believe the Wild will clean things up and will earn a postseason berth for a fourth straight season.


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: There appears to be some separation in the Central between the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and everyone else. At the beginning of the season, I would have lumped the Wild in with that group rather than the one they're fighting with over the final playoff spots in the West. To me, the goal for Fletcher hasn't changed: Add another center. As much as a talent like Drouin might help this team pop in more goals, I'd rather use the defensive depth Pierre is talking about to add a center who can play in the top six as current Wild pivot man Mikko Koivu ages. Johansen would have been perfect. The problem is, those kinds of players don't shake loose often. We've seen centers like Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado's Matt Duchene take a lap in the rumor mill, but I can't imagine either of those franchises is eager to bail out the Wild, even though they both would benefit from acquiring a young defenseman like Matt Dumba in return. That move might have to wait until the offseason, but in the meantime a Band-Aid like Eric Staal might be the best option for a short-term boost.


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Well, if the Wild's time isn't now, when is it? They have made the playoffs in three straight years. They've won a round in each of the past two. So, shouldn't they be poised to make a long run? This is the third straight season they've had swoons that have endangered playoff positioning. And trust me, they are an endangered species right now. Minnesota is tied with Colorado for the two wild-card spots in the West, but they are now being dogged by Nashville, Vancouver and Anaheim, and instead of being in the hunt for home-ice advantage they'll come out of the break wondering if they're going to make it at all. If I'm Fletcher, I keep my powder dry and let the roster tell me it's worthy of a big deadline move with inspired play in February. Monday night was a terrific example of the lack of focus on details, as the Wild somehow allowed the tying goal in the waning moments of the game while they were on the power play. That's the kind of puck luck, or poor decision-making, that has marked the Wild's play for the last month or so. I still think they're a playoff team. The problem is, they haven't played like it in a long time.


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