The road calls for red-hot Wild

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2011 - 7:10 AM

Minnesota gets a chance to see if it's progress continues on the road.


Wild goalie Josh Harding has sparked the winning streak.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, McClatchy Tribune

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The Wild has won four consecutive games, three of them at home. During that time the players appear to have bought into coach Mike Yeo's system, the defense has been as tight as a snare drum and the goaltending has been stellar.

So, then, take that on the road.

It is still early. What happens in the next week-plus is not going to make or break the Wild's season. But, with a five-game road trip about to start Tuesday in Calgary -- equaling the team's longest road stretch of the season -- it will be much clearer after the fifth game in eight nights where this team is aimed.

"This is an important time for us," center Matt Cullen said. "We're starting to build some things here. We're getting to playing the way we need to play. Now we have to show we can do it on the road."

Heading into Monday's games, the Wild was in second place in the Northwest Division and fourth in the Western Conference. The Wild is tied for fifth in the league with 11 home points.

If the Wild can hold its own during the upcoming five games, it would be in good position upon its return. After playing at Calgary, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Columbus, the team comes home for a season-long, six-game homestand.

"We've done a good job at home, but I think this trip is going to define our team," winger Devin Setoguchi said. "Hopefully, we can keep building."

Yeo is most curious to see how his team will react after a little success.

"How do we respond to the fact that we've won four games in a row?" Yeo said. "Do we come back to the rink and say, 'OK, we're here now?' Or do we continue to do what we've done so far, which is come to the rink with a focus on getting better and building something here? That has to be our focus going into this trip as well."

Lundin practices

It has been a long, frustrating string of weeks for Minnesota native Mike Lundin. Finally, there was a reward when the Wild defenseman, out since the early days of training camp because of a back injury, returned to practice Monday.

"It has been a long wait," the former Apple Valley High School standout said. "There was a little rust, some tough spots out there. But it feels good to be skating with the guys."

It will take a number of practices -- neither Yeo nor Lundin knows exactly how many -- before Lundin is ready to play. He will accompany the team on its trip to keep practicing with the team. But just getting back was a big step for Lundin, who was unable to even skate on his own until a little more than a week ago.

"Every day you get up and it's 'Is it better?'" Lundin said. "It's such slight [day-to-day] improvement. You drive yourself crazy doing that. Then you have a couple good days and you'll be excited and then there is a setback. There were a lot of ups and downs for sure."

Both Lundin and Clayton Stoner (finger) will be on the trip, but Yeo is so happy the way his current group of defensemen is doing, so it's unclear when Stoner -- who could have played Saturday against St. Louis -- will return to the lineup.

Harding honored

The good news just keeps coming for goalie Josh Harding. He was named the NHL's "First Star" of the week by the league. All he did to earn it was to go 3-0-0, including a 2-1 overtime victory in Detroit on Tuesday, a 5-1 victory over Vancouver on Thursday and a 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Saturday. He had a 0.99 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage.

"It's an individual award, but it's not," Harding said. "The team has played so good in front of me."

That said, Yeo reiterated that Niklas Backstrom would get the start Tuesday in Calgary.


• The Wild, down to no extra forwards, recalled center Warren Peters from AHL Houston.

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