What's buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

On thin ice at year's end, the Wild are surging

AP - Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Wild were reeling as last year ended. Star Zach Parise was on injured reserve. Coach Mike Yeo's job was in jeopardy.

Then the problems really piled up. Starting goalie Josh Harding was out of action again with an illness. Captain Mikko Koivu broke his ankle. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon got hurt, too.

Somehow, the Wild survived -- and thrived.

''Ah, it was a piece of cake,'' Yeo said last week, smiling wryly. ''I slept like a baby.''

With an 11-4-2 record in 17 games since the calendar turned to 2014, the Wild have taken control of the first of two wild-card spots in the Western Conference playoff race. With 69 points, they're ahead of Phoenix and Dallas, who have 64 apiece and have played one fewer game.

Eight of those 11 wins were in regulation.

''All I wanted to do is I wanted our players to look at me and say, 'OK, he's got confidence. OK, well, we should have confidence,''' Yeo said. ''That was the one thing that I wanted. And I did believe in the group that we had still. And I did believe in the game that we played.''

The Wild still have had trouble scoring, ranking 25th in the NHL with 2.36 goals per game. With Harding's return unknown and Niklas Backstrom injured and ineffective at different times this season, Darcy Kuemper has taken over in the net. Relying on a rookie goalie can be a risk.

But Parise is back in form from his broken foot. Spurgeon has returned. Koivu is skipping the Olympics and expected at full strength when the schedule resumes on Feb. 27. Nino Niederreiter, acquired in a draft-day trade, has given the offense a boost. Mikael Granlund has bounced back from a rough rookie year.

''I think we've got good character,'' leading scorer Jason Pominville said. ''A lot of guys stepped up in different situations. It wasn't easy at times. You could tell that we were missing some of our key guys, but I think other guys kind of found a way to adjust their game and get adjusted to the level of our play that you have to be successful night in and night out.''

During Yeo's tenure as coach, the Wild have seemed to play better in less-than-ideal circumstances than when in tip-top shape.

''Knowing our group, knowing competitors in general, they love a challenge,'' Yeo said. ''So I think we all do.''

League realignment was welcomed by the Wild, for enhanced regional rivalries to better entice fans and more games in their own time zone. But this season, the new look has made their postseason bid more difficult.

Only the top three teams in each division are guaranteed a playoff spot, and St. Louis (84 points), Chicago (84) and Colorado (79) are comfortably ahead of the Wild, who have only 23 games left.

''We've just got to focus on winning games and when we play Colorado, try to beat them and try to lessen that cushion that they have on us and try to slowly creep up on them,'' Pominville said.

Added Parise: ''That's hard to gain that many points. But you never know. ... You've got to push the teams down that are below you, and we have to take care of ourselves.''

The non-Olympians on the roster will reconvene for practice next week. The Wild will have to be careful not to lose the momentum they built, with 21 days between games.

''Much the same as out of the lockout, it's how can you get yourself game ready?'' Yeo said. ''Making sure that you're ready to execute and play at the pace that you need to play at, making sure that you're ready to battle at the level you need to, and making sure that the conditioning is at the level that you need it at.''

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (5)

Recommended for You

  • Adrian Peterson Has A Quietly Terrible Contract, And Cutting Him Would Save The Vikings A Ton Of Money

    The Minnesota Vikings reversed course and decided to ban Adrian Peterson from the team until his legal issues are resolved on Wednesday. The Vikings put him on the exempt/commissioner's permission list — which will keep him under contract while barring him from team activities. According to Ian…

    Business Insider37 mins ago
  • WARNING: Graphic photos of Giancarlo Stanton's face

    WARNING: Graphic photos of Giancarlo Stanton's face   Giancarlo Stanton showed his face Tuesday, and it looked a lot better than it did Thursday after an errant pitch struck him there. Even though the"before" photo is pretty disturbing, the "after" pic

    Big League Stew
    Wed, Sep 17
    4:10 PM PDT
    Miami at NY Mets
    Preview Game
  • Four Patriots Nominated for Hall of Fame

    Four Patriots Nominated for Hall of Fame The initial list of Hall of Fame nominees is out, and there are a few familiar faces on it. Along with the start of the 2014 season comes the beginning of the official selection process for The Pro Football

    SB Nation32 mins ago
  • Lexi Thompson's newest photo shoot will catch your attention

    Lexi Thompson first entered the public consciousness at 12 years old when she qualified for the U.S. Now at 19, Thompson has set LPGA records as their youngest champion (since eclipsed by Lydia Ko) and won a major championship. Thompson dons a bikini in what would probably be considered in golf…

    Devil Ball Golf
  • View

    'Hawaii Five-0' Season 5 Premiere Screening (19 photos)

    'Hawaii Five-0' Season 5 Premiere ScreeningThousands of Oahu residents and visitors flocked Queen's Surf Beach in Waikiki Saturday, Sept. 12, 2014, in Honolulu. They gathered in Waikiki to watch the season five premiere of "Hawaii Five-0." Grace Park

    Yahoo TV
  • Yankees' Girardi and Rays' Maddon at odds after Jeter hit by pitch

    New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the Tampa Bay Rays should stop pitching inside if they're going to keep hitting his players. Rays manager Joe Maddon says thanks for the advice, but no thanks. Girardi got his Italian Irish up Tuesday night after Yankees captain Derek Jeter was hit on the…

    Big League Stew
    Wed, Sep 17
    4:10 PM PDT
    NY Yankees at Tampa Bay
    Preview Game
  • Jameis Winston allegedly shouted an obscene phrase in the FSU student union

    For nearly a year, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has been exhaustive telling everyone who would listen — and that's a lot of us — that quarterback Jameis Winston is a really mature guy. The Heisman Trophy winner’s latest act of immaturity came Tuesday when he reportedly stood up on a table in…

    Dr. Saturday
  • NHL ‘Hockey Wives’ TV series will star Nicole Brown, Noureen DeWulf

    Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown and Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller are established names in the NHL, whose exploits are featured on television every game night.  Nicole Brown and Noureen DeWulf are two of the cast members for “Hockey Wives,” a new reality series that chronicles the…

    Puck Daddy
  • Kansas City Chiefs make roster moves on the practice squad

    Kansas City Chiefs make roster moves on the practice squad The Chiefs added two and cut two. The Kansas City Chiefs continue shaking up their practice squad. After a number of roster transactions last week, the Chiefs have released two from the

    SB Nation57 mins ago
  • Recap: 'Big Brother' Final 4 Snark With Andy Herren

    One ridiculous game twist ruined Frankie Grande's otherwise admirable game. Man. We're down to four: Victoria (who is about as threatening as a panda in a pop-up book), Cody (a man with gold pecs who's turning in a bronze-worthy performance), Derrick (a genius who is nice enough to feed his fellow…

    Hitfix
  • Play

    Knile Davis needs to fly off of the waiver wire

    Rotoworld: Adam Levitan joins Jenna Corrado to discuss the key pickups that need to be made off of the waiver wire heading into Week 3. On the top of Levitan's list is Chiefs' RB Knile Davis, who would get the start if Jamaal Charles can't go.

    NBC Sports
  • UFC Fight Night 52 complete fighter breakdown, Roy 'Big Country' Nelson edition

    UFC Fight Night 52 complete fighter breakdown, Roy 'Big Country' Nelson edition MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 52 headliner Roy Nelson, who looks to out-brawl Mark Hunt this Saturday night (Sept. 20, 2014) at…

    SB Nation
  • WWE vs. NFL: The Monday night war that isn't

    Last night's episode of Monday Night RAW played out like a game of RISK. There is no such thing as competition with the NFL because, well, when you have just 16 games per year, not including playoffs, each one of them is a big deal. Especially on Monday night, when most pigskin patrons don't have…

    SB Nation
  • Slash burns Panthers for then-NFL QB rushing record

    The Steelers have lost just once in five games against the Panthers. Facing Carolina for the first time, Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart gave Pittsburgh a 14-9 second-quarter lead when he scampered for an electrifying 80-yard touchdown run. It was the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in…

    SB Nation
  • Adrian Peterson barred from Minnesota Vikings; Out vs. New Orleans Saints

    The Vikings have barred Adrian Peterson fro mthe team, meaning he'll miss this week vs. the Saints. The Minnesota Vikings originally activated All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson for Sunday's contest vs. the New Orleans Saints.

    SB Nation
  • Kansas AD's name on response to fan email asking for Charlie Weis' dismissal

    As Kansas' 41-3 loss to Duke was ending on Saturday, Scott Paradise, like many Kansas fans, was frustrated. The Jayhawks haven't won a game on the road since Mark Mangino, now Iowa State's offensive coordinator, was the head coach. Simply put, since Mangino led the Jayhawks to the 2008 Orange Bowl…

    Dr. Saturday
  • Apply for a Master of Laws Degree Today!

    We offer LL.M. degrees for attorneys and J.S.M. degrees for business professionals. 100% online, 1 year completion, and 5 concentrations. Learn more!

    AdChoicesThomas Jefferson Law Sponsored
  • Dwight Howard has license suspended for running red lights, being dumb

    Rockets center Dwight Howard may play in Houston now, but he is still paying for his years in Orlando, getting his license suspended for failing to pay his red light tickets in Orlando. In a more lighthearted twist, Rockets center has gotten his license suspended for his failure to pay a red light…

    SB Nation