Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/15/11
ST. PAUL, Minn. By this time next year, the Minnesota Wild will be in a new conference following the NHL's realignment. When that happens, games against the likes of Winnipeg and Chicago will be conference games.After losing 2-1 Tuesday on the road to the Jets, Minnesota fell 4-3 in a shootout at home Wednesday to the second-place Blackhawks. Both games showed that the Wild might have a few good conference rivalries already building before realignment begins."There's some rivalry there. I'm looking forward to that," first-year Wild coach Mike Yeo said after Wednesday's loss. "I think that we don't like that team that we played tonight, and I think they probably don't like us. I also think that we don't like the team that we played the night before. But we haven't found too many teams that we like yet."Perhaps it was fatigue or road-weariness after finishing a five-game, nine-day road trip the night before, but the Wild came out flat to start Wednesday's game. Minnesota's first shot on goal didn't come until 2:59 remaining in the first period, and the Wild were out-shot 11-2 in the period.The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on goals by Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik. But the Wild answered back with two goals later in the period, as Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen evened the score. "I think we knew it was going to be a great hockey game and a tough battle all night," said Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. "It could have gone either way. We played a good game. The second night of a back-to-back, we battled extremely hard."Minnesota was also playing with a shuffled lineup, as it has for a good portion of the season. On Wednesday, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was out after breaking his nose Tuesday against Winnipeg. Cullen returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with an illness. Forward Guillaume Latendresse left Wednesday's contest early after experiencing post-concussion symptoms, Yeo said.Despite it all, however, the Wild managed to battle back and hang with the visiting Blackhawks."We've got guys that are sick, we've got guys that are hurt. We're depleted as it is," Yeo said. "To fall down 2-0 like that, at that point in the game, to battle back and get a point and give yourself a chance to win the game we had a number of chances to win the game I was really, really impressed with our guys." For as entertaining as Wednesday's game was, however, it was almost anticlimactic for it to end in a shootout. After Cullen missed the Wild's first shot and Chicago's Jonathan Toews scored, Dany Heatley never got a shot off against Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery. Chicago won it on a shot by Patrick Kane, who beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to steal a point at Xcel Energy Center.After the Wild battled back twice from behind to tie it, Wednesday's game against two of hockey's top teams was decided in four shots."You feel good, especially when you tie it up and you're thinking a bit of a slow start, but still a great game for us," said Minnesota defenseman Mike Lundin. "To come in with a loss after a shootout, it hurts a bit."The NHL instituted the shootout prior to the 2005-06 season to determine the winner. While there is no perfect solution, the debate has raged on since then about what's best to decide a tie game.Despite the loss, Minnesota is now 4-2 in shootouts. Yeo is confident in his team's ability to win games that go to a shootout."We've won a lot of shootouts already, so we're not afraid of those. We've got guys that can score goals and we've got goalies that can save the puck," Yeo said. "There were a lot of things that I really liked about this game. It sucks that we don't get two points, but this was a win for me. As far as I'm concerned, that's a win for our guys."
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