The setting is familiar, and the home ice at Xcel Energy Center has been good to the Wild all season. But coaches and players know that, in itself, isn't enough.
The Wild is in an 0-2 hole heading into Sunday's Game 3 of its first-round playoff series with the Winnipeg Jets. It is the fourth consecutive playoff series the team has found itself in such a hole going back to 2015. If the Wild doesn't want this series to end the way those did, this is a must win.
"It's huge,'' said center Eric Staal, who was reunited on a line with winger Mikael Granlund at Saturday's practice. "Obviously, you never want to get down to a 3-0 hole. So we know that. It's an opportunity in our building to respond. We've had moments all year where we've needed to respond at certain points in the regular season, so it's no different tomorrow.''
Sunday's game is slightly in jeopardy, as the Jets weren't able to fly into the Twin Cities on Saturday because of the snowstorm. Their charter was diverted to Duluth in the early afternoon, and eventually they returned to Winnipeg. They plan to try again Sunday morning.
The Wild lost in regulation just six times in 41 home game this season. It has lost three straight games only once this season, with consecutive losses to Chicago (at home) and at Boston and Toronto in early November. The team responded with a four-game winning streak. Coach Bruce Boudreau hopes to see that same response starting Sunday.
"The guys care a lot,'' he said. "And they're a resilient group. But, most of all, they're competitive and they care. So, I mean, when things don't go well, they're not happy. And I think we work hard to fix those things.''
Saturday's practice included a lot of work on play through the neutral zone, a problem in Games 1 and 2. For Boudreau, it was also about lifting the spirits of a team that has struggled to mount any offense.
"No matter how you cut it, guys play for seven months,'' Boudreau said. "And if they go down 0-2, they're a little bit disappointed. But it's not like losing, getting down 0-2 in your own building and then having to go to their building.''
That said, home ice, itself isn't enough.
"We're comfortable playing here,'' Zach Parise said. "We'll do our best to get this third game and go from there. But by no means is it, 'Oh, we're at home. It's a free couple wins.' These guys are really playing well and we're going to have to play much better than we have in the first two games. It's not as if we can go in there and get an easy game. It's going to be very tough for us.''
But the team's success at home this season is a good place to start when looking for a rallying cry.
"Unfortunately I feel like we always find ourselves down 0-2,'' Parise said. "It's beginning to be a bad habit of ours. We want to have a great start [in Game 3]. We know the crowd is going to be very good. At the same time, we have to give them something to cheer about. We have to play our best game tomorrow.''