The Wild is hoping history repeats itself Monday night.
After Saturday’s 4-3 loss at San Jose, Wild coach Mike Yeo recalled that the final game before last year’s NHL All-Star break turned into a “real rallying point” for his team. The Wild lost the game, but rallied to force overtime before losing in a shootout at Detroit.
The much-needed boost of confidence helped forget about a dismal January, and the Wild responded with the league’s best record in the second half of the season.
Yeo’s team finds itself in a similar situation with Arizona visiting Xcel Energy Center on Monday. The Wild is 3-9 in January and had lost five consecutive games at one point. The disappointing run dropped the Wild to fifth in the division and clinging to the Western Conference’s final wild-card berth by two points.
“We mentioned it briefly [Sunday] that we’d like to go into the break feeling good about ourselves,” Yeo said after Sunday morning’s workout at Ridder Arena, “but I’m sure [the players] are feeling the same way, so we have to be ready to play the game the right way. That’s the only way to accomplish that.”
The Wild rallied twice Saturday to tie San Jose, but gave up the game-winning goal with 84 seconds left in the third period. The letdown came two nights after the Wild shut out the Pacific Division’s first-place Los Angeles Kings.
“The Kings game was one of our better games in a long period of time. [Saturday] I thought in the second period it started to get away from us,” Yeo said. “The L.A. game we had a real strong game, so now we have to chance to maybe pick up a little bit of momentum with a real strong showing [Monday].
“We have to be able to respond and that’s pretty much the message. It’s a meaningful game for both teams.”
Home success a must
The Wild is 2-5-1 at home since Dec. 21 and 0-3-1 while being outscored 21-15 in its past four games at Xcel Energy Center.
“Another real important note for us is we’d like to get back to being a real good home team,” Yeo said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on and is something that has gotten away from us, so we have to get back to it.”
The Wild played only four of 12 games at home in January, but lost all four. In December, the Wild was 6-2 at home. Overall, Yeo’s team is 14-8-2 at the X this season.
“[Monday is] huge. It’s a big two points for us,” Wild forward Jason Zucker said. “It’s a big thing for us to get the win and go into break [with confidence].
“We showed some resilience [on the 1-2 California road trip]. … Overall, I think we took a step in the right direction in some ways and I think there are a few little things we can get better at.”
Offense in a funk
Matt Dumba, one of the Wild’s most effective offensive defensemen, has only one goal and three assists in 23 games since Dec. 5. During this dry spell, he has 38 shots and is minus-4.
“You’re going to have these [stretches] and just got to work your way through them,” Dumba said. “I’m working hard and trying to stay mentally sharp and be at my best. I still need more, so [Monday] night I’m going to be ready.
“The boys are excited to get on the ice and prove ourselves going into this break that we’re a good team and we can win games. And that’s what we’re going to do after this break, is come back and be refreshed and win.”