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Dismal January showing raises plenty of questions for the Wild

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EberleJordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
Eberle has benefited from playing with Connor McDavid the past two games. Eberle scored twice and added an assist in Thursday's 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, after getting a goal and an assist on Tuesday in McDavid's return to the lineup.


RibeiroMike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators
Ribeiro had a long night in the Predators' 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, finishing minus-3 and losing eight of 10 faceoffs on the night.


Can the Minnesota Wild save their season?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: What can Minnesota do to end this miserable spell? The Wild have now lost nine of their past 10, and 12 of the past 15, and coughed up a 2-0 lead Thursday against the New York Rangers. Afterward, defenseman Ryan Suter sounded as though he could have been talking about the tailspinning Montreal Canadiens, but instead it was his own team: "We're a very fragile team. They get one and we kind of go into a shell -- and that's a team that has no confidence. We have to figure it out fast, or it's not going to work." General manager Chuck Fletcher has long gone to bat for his head coach, Mike Yeo, who I think is a very good one. But every coach runs out of answers over time. Is that what's happened here? Does Fletcher finally blink, especially if there's ownership pressure? Or can he make a trade for his beleaguered coach? When I spoke to Fletcher recently he said he's been trying for two-plus months to make an impact deal. He wouldn't name names, but we know he was in hard on Ryan Johansen. He's trying on Jonathan Drouin. He's got other irons in the fire, too. But it's not easy in a salary-cap league to make impact trades. Something has to give because Minnesota is too good a team to be free-falling like this.


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Thank goodness, I thought for a minute we'd be on McDavid and the Oilers again! At least the Wild are within hailing distance of a playoff spot. But as you and Suter noted, Pierre, that's not going to be the case for very long if things don't change. What is happening in Minnesota now is not just a slump; it's a crumbling that is very similar to what's happening in Montreal, except the Wild don't have the convenient excuse that they're missing a superstar goaltender. The Wild have won three times in 15 games since the calendar turned on 2016. They have lost eight one-goal games over that stretch (including shootout games). So Fletcher has to consider closely what he does between now and the Feb. 29 trade deadline. On a team that boasts character guys like Suter and Zach Parise, there seems to be a disconnect, some fault in the collective DNA. Sure, the Wild need a scoring center, but this is basically the same team that righted the ship after a midseason swoon and won a playoff round a year ago. Does this lineup deserve a big move? Is firing Yeo the answer -- and if it is, then who is the answer behind the bench? -- does Fletcher try some sort of dramatic lineup move, which is easier said than done? There's no question this is a defining moment for a team that is one of the most confounding, and disappointing, of this NHL season.


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Two more points for McDavid, Scotty! OK, just had to get that in there. Fletcher has been around long enough that we have a pretty good feel for how he operates. He takes a big-picture view and is very patient. When talking about the team's struggles in January, he said he'd prefer to take the long view and look at the numbers over time. As bad as it's been, this isn't Montreal. The Wild are just one point out of a playoff spot and still have a better goal differential than the two teams in the Central they're chasing. Not only does Fletcher like Yeo, but the players also do, so my expectation is that Fletcher will continue to be patient. Plus, who does he bring in at this point? As Pierre mentioned, he's been trying to make a deal for months. The need upfront is nothing new. It was the trade for Devan Dubnyk that saved this team last season. Fletcher needs to find this year's version of the Dubnyk deal to shake things up. I'm just not sure it's out there.


Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Some seem to think that the Wild could be interested in trading for Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I'm here to tell you that deal is an unlikely one for Minnesota. No doubt Eriksson's presence would help the Wild, but Fletcher is not interested in a rental player. Minnesota would not sign Eriksson to the type of contract he's seeking (upward of $6 million per season), so the Wild will seek help from elsewhere. Fletcher did kick the tires on Drouin, but the organization's interest has faded. As we're also talking about both Montreal's and Minnesota's struggles, what if those two teams pulled off a deal? I'm thinking the Canadiens could dangle Alex Galchenyuk and see whether Fletcher bites. Yes, Galchenyuk is fourth on the team in scoring for Montreal, but if both teams need a bit of a shakeup, then it should start there.


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