Wild notes: Tough road trip looms

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2014 - 12:19 AM

After Wednesday’s game, the Wild boarded a chartered flight for St. Louis, where it will begin arguably its toughest road trip of the season Thursday. Depending on how the Wild fares during its trip to St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago could either ramp up the anxiety level the final five games of the season, or lighten it.

The Blues are the top team in the NHL. The Kings and Blackhawks are above Minnesota in the standings. The eighth-place Coyotes are chasing the seventh-place Wild, so a victory Saturday would create separation as the Wild aims to secure the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

“We’re playing tough teams,” first-line left winger Zach Parise said. “They’re all in the playoffs right now, so we’ll have our work cut out for us. But it’ll be good to start seeing what type of hockey we’re going to have to play to, No. 1 make the playoffs, but, No. 2, do anything in the playoffs.

“It’ll be good for us. It’ll be tough road games, but if we recognize what we did in Detroit [on Sunday] and keep trying to do that, we’ll be OK.”

Defenseman Nate Prosser said the entire road trip is a proverbial “measuring stick.”

“It’s a huge road trip for our team to see where we’re at,” Prosser said. “Every two points are huge, especially these ones. We don’t want Phoenix coming up from behind and we want to let other teams know we’re for real.”

While it’d be easy to look ahead to the big game at Phoenix, Parise says it all starts in St. Louis.

The Wild has lost to the Blues eight consecutive times (0-5-3) and hasn’t won in regulation in St. Louis in 11 visits since Oct. 2007 (3-6-2). The Blues are 25-5-4 at home, and the Wild could conceivably face St. Louis in the first round if it finishes in either wild-card position.

“That’s always a hard building, and they play really well at home,” Parise said. “[Coach Ken] Hitchcock’s good with his matchups. That’s a tough place to win, but we’re at a point right now where we have to start winning games in that building if we want to be able to do anything.

“I mean, we could be looking at those guys in the first round. Who knows? We’ve got to start being a tough team to play in that building and win games in that building.”

Fontaine scratched

After being scratched in five consecutive games, Justin Fontaine returned to the Wild lineup to play five in a row. That included a one-goal, one-assist effort March 18 at the Islanders.

But three below-average games in a row and Mike Yeo’s desire to find a fourth line with a stereotypical fourth-line identity caused the coach to scratch Fontaine on Wednesday against Vancouver.

Yeo said he wants a fourth line that brings momentum, is solid defensively, strong on the forecheck and that plays in the offensive zone. Wednesday, he went with a Dany Heatley-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick fourth line.

Yeo said Fontaine, in a fourth-line role, must improve his wall play.

“When he’s on, he’s stripping pucks,” Yeo said. “He doesn’t have to be a guy who’s running guys through the boards, but you have to be effective. … We’ve got to make sure we keep him ready to go. There’s going to be a time very soon where we call upon him and we hope he can step in the same way that he did before [on Long Island].”

Etc.

• Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and forward Jason Zucker underwent successful surgeries Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 91 FINAL
Miami 101
LA Lakers 93 FINAL
Chicago 113
Golden State 86 FINAL
LA Clippers 100
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 58 FINAL
Nebraska 71
Colorado 66 FINAL
Hawaii 69
George Washington 60 FINAL
Wichita State 54
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close