CALGARY, ALBERTA - With Calgary overtaken by the World Junior Championships, the Wild left town for a few days in Banff with the intention of clearing the minds.
The second half began Saturday night against the Flames, and the Wild's hoping to reset the season after a gruesome 11-game stretch destroyed much of what it accomplished in the first 30 games.
Playing against a severely injury-ravaged, struggling team that was lit up for nine by Boston two days prior, the Wild worked hard, got pucks behind Calgary's defense and established some quality forechecks.
But as usual, an inability to finish was the problem for the second-worst offensive team in the NHL as the Wild was beaten 3-1 by largely a minor league cast of Flames at the Saddledome.
Lance Buoma's first NHL goal and Jarome Iginla's 500th highlighted a three-goal third period for the Flames as the free-falling Wild fell to 1-8-3 in its past 12 games.
Dany Heatley scored late to spark a late push, but the Wild's road winless skid since Dec. 10 hit seven (0-6-1). The top team in the NHL for part of November and the first half of December is now in seventh place in the Western Conference -- a point ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles and 10th-place Colorado.
"We're in a tough spot, there's no question about it," captain Mikko Koivu said. "Not a lot of wins lately. It's a process for us, and there were a lot of good things about our game too."
The Wild's objective in Banff was to begin the process of reestablishing its identity of a hard-working, good-defending team.
It won't happen overnight, coach Mike Yeo says. The Wild won't be able to flip a switch and rediscover the exact recipe that helped it win 17 out of 21 at one point.
It will take a string of good periods and games. Saturday may have been a modest start from a work ethic point of view in the first two periods, but it simply cannot score.
The Wild has scored five goals in the past seven road games and is 1-for-29 in the past 11 games on the power play.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher is monitoring the team closely. He admits he's been on the phone a lot with the Feb. 27 trade deadline on the horizon, but he's not looking for "short-term, quick fixes."
"If we do anything, preferably it would be something that makes sense for at least a couple years," he said Friday. "We have a lot of [prospects] coming that I think will be able to play. It's exciting what we're trying to grow here, so I don't think I'm in a hurry to dismantle a lot of what we're trying to build. But you look at everything."
Reportedly, Anaheim is willing to trade one of its core forwards, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry -- three players Fletcher played a large role in drafting.
"I'm not afraid to be aggressive if we need to be aggressive, but those type of trades are hard to make [in-season]," Fletcher said.
You can bet the Wild is interested in New Jersey's Zach Parise, but most likely as a free agent rather than in a trade. Destroying the Wild's stable of prospects in a trade to get him wouldn't be the smartest way to entice him to commit long-term.
The Wild has a logjam of defensemen. It's also rich in goaltending.
Fletcher said "health will be the biggest determining factor of what we do moving forward."
He's mostly referring to whether or not the Wild can get back Guillaume Latendresse, a go-to scorer when he plays. He's shut down because of a concussion.
"He's one of the few big bodies that we have that can play in offensive situations," Fletcher said. "Hopefully he'll get well. You just don't know. Head injuries you never know. His addition would be a huge boost."
On Nov. 30, the Wild began a stretch of 20 of 29 games on the road, "so you know you're not going to steamroll through it. You know there's going to be bumps along the way," Fletcher said.
"Are you bruised or are you beaten? To me, at the end of the year, the key is not to be defined by what we're going through now. It's to be defined by how we respond to what we're going through now, and there's a lot of character [on this team]."