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They Have Goal in Mind

May 16, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

The Minnesota Wild players and coaches sounded down and not very defiant Thursday afternoon, a day before facing elimination from the Western Conference finals by the Mighty Ducks. Game 4 is tonight at the Arrowhead Pond.

"It's a huge challenge, there's no doubt," Coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Right now, it's not a situation where we have to look at coming back to win the series. We're not in a situation where we can look at winning a game. We're in a situation where we have to look at scoring a goal."

So far, the Wild has nothing but three shutouts to show for its first conference finals appearance and is in danger of setting a playoff record for futility during a four-game series. Minnesota needs to score three goals tonight in order to avoid matching the league record for the fewest goals in a four-game series.

Judging by the lack of zip the players showed during an afternoon practice at the Pond, the Wild is in for more trouble tonight against the Ducks and scalding goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Minnesota began this round with the most productive offense in the playoffs, having scored 42 goals in seven-game series victories over the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks. The Wild had the top power-play unit in the postseason, having clicked 15 times with the man-advantage.

Those numbers have not budged against Giguere, who has shut out the Wild in three consecutive Duck victories.

"You don't want them depressed and thinking everything's over, that we can't come back, that we can't score, that this guy [Giguere] is playing the best hockey and so on," Lemaire said when asked about his players' fragile state of mind.

Said winger Richard Park: "Who knows? Miracles can happen."

Asked about going scoreless and trailing the series, 3-0, Park said, "This is an uneasy position to be in. I know we're not going to come in here [tonight] and automatically think we're going to win four in a row. All we can do is try to win one and go from there.

"There's no use hanging our heads right now because it's not over. If we go out and don't score on them, that's just the way it is."


The Wild spent a good portion of Thursday's practice working on its power play, moving the puck from one wing to the other before unleashing shots with Jeremy Stevenson, among others, attempting to screen the goaltender.

"We need shots from the point, shots from the side and guys going at the net--all the usual things a team does," Lemaire said. "[The drill] was just to make them move the puck and feel good about the position they're in [on the ice]."

Minnesota is 0 for 12 on the power play against the Ducks after going 15 for 57 (26.3%) in the opening two rounds.

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