When the Wild won two in a row before the All-Star break, one got the sense that the slumping team was still in decent shape to make the playoffs because there would come a point where 18 of its final 29 games would be in the comfy confines of Xcel Energy Center.
As it turns out, home ice has provided no advantage whatsoever.
The Wild has lost five in a row at home and 10 of 12 in St. Paul since the All-Star break. That includes a winless four-game homestand and three consecutive losses to open this current five-game homestand.
"That is the worst part," said winger Devin Setoguchi as the Wild prepared to host Vancouver on Monday night. "I'm not saying you should be more comfortable at home, but when you're at home, you've got your own fans, you've got your own bed, you eat your own food.
"The fans, they're knowledgeable here, they know hockey, and they deserve better a lot of nights than what we've given them. We expect more from ourselves as well."
But the Wild has struggled dramatically at home, having been outscored 41-24 in the past 12 home games. That's created a lot of angst amongst a vocal fan base that has fired boos almost nightly at the home team.
"I feel bad for them," said injured goalie Niklas Backstrom. "They want us to win, and trust me, we want to win, and we go out there and our game hasn't been what it's supposed to be. Some nights it hasn't been even close to what it's supposed to be. ...
"For us, it starts now for next year. For us in this locker room, we have to prove we want to be part of this organization, part of the future. So even if it's tough for us to get in the playoffs, you're always playing for something every night. I believe we can do very good things next year, but it's not just going to happen. It should start now to turn this thing around."
Back to Houston
Nick Palmieri, the young forward acquired by the Wild in the Marek Zidlicky trade with New Jersey last month, was assigned to the Houston Aeros on Sunday. Palmieri had no points and was minus-3 in nine games.
"I don't think his game is necessarily as high as it can be right now, but some of that is also being in a tough situation," coach Mike Yeo said. "So for him to go down there and get confidence and play his game and not have to worry about anything except being a hockey player, I think it can be beneficial.
"He's a big body who skates and can shoot the puck, but there's a lot of the little things that have to be improved -- the details in his game without the puck, puck management, making sure he's real strong on his wall play and has the ability to execute."
• Center Mikko Koivu, who has missed 14 consecutive games and 22 of the past 26 because of a shoulder injury, practiced again Sunday and is day-to-day.
• Backstrom, who has missed seven games because of a groin injury, said it feels "almost normal. It's something new I never had before. I got a little scared there [March 1 in Montreal]. The way it felt even after the game getting off the plane, I was sure I'd be out a long time."
• Center Matt Cullen (knee) was given the day off Sunday but is expected to play against Vancouver.
• Wild prospect Jason Zucker, injured in Denver's loss to North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five on Saturday night, was taken to a St. Paul hospital as a precaution with an upper body injury. The Wild said the injury doesn't appear serious, and he is likely to play in the Pioneers' NCAA tournament game against Ferris State on Friday.