By Mike Harrington
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Pominville is having a big offensive year for the Minnesota Wild with a team-high 17 goals in 42 games. But he was bypassed for a spot on Team USA, something the ex-Sabres captain told me today he expected since he was not invited to the August orientation camp and doesn't have a lot of international experience in the program.
What he hasn't expected is the struggles of the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild have lost six straight in regulation for the first time in franchise history, scoring just 13 goals, and are buried in 10th place in the Western Conference. Owner Craig Leipold attended practice yesterday and there's plenty of chatter that coach Mike Yeo will be fired if the Sabres win tonight.
Pominville went through that, of course, in February when the Sabres fired Lindy Ruff. He said today the Wild simply has to stay with its defensive-oriented approach if its want to snap its slump and cool all the talk.
"We have to win our games 2-1, 3-1. When we cheat towards the offense, it doesn't fall into the style we want to play," Pominville said. "The St. Louis game (a 2-1 loss Tuesday) was the style. We were better defensively, better with the puck. If we bring that type of effort on a nightly basis we'll win more games."
The Wild slipped into crisis mode Sunday when they blew a 3-0 lead to the New York Islanders and lost 5-4, becoming the first team to lose to the Isles when leading by three goals since 1994.
"Struggling offensively you want to score more goals and be that guy," Pominville said. "It leads to you doing things you normally don't do. The Islander game is a good example of it. It's not the way we want to play. It shows we have to play defense first to win games."
The Wild is going with four new lines tonight and Pominville is on line one with Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu. Yeo said he's shifted Pominville around all season, always with good results.
"He always does it with a smile on his face. He doesn't seem to mind," Yeo said. "When you have a player like that who is as smart as he is and effective as he is you can put him on any line."
Tonight is a big game for the Wild and it's a big one for Pominville too. And not just because it's his former teammates in town. It's also Jason Pominville Bobblehead night.
"I gotta get my hands on a few of those," Pominville said. "Probably a hot ticket. It's pretty funny. I had one in Rochester. I'll have to see which one looks like me the most."
taggedex-Sabres | Jason Pominville | Minnesota Wild