After completing its second-longest homestand of the season with six out of a possible 10 points, a showing that kept the Wild in the mix for a wild-card berth in the Western Conference, the team returns to the road for a three-game set in New York and New Jersey.
“I think we're due to go on the road,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I personally don't like to have seven, eight, nine, 10 games at home. I think you get stale, but five is a good number.”
Before departing for New York, the Wild practiced Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. Center Matt Cullen was the only player missing from the session, as he took a maintenance day. Defenseman Jonas Brodin remains sidelined as he recovers from hand surgery, but Boudreau said Brodin has been skating and was handling the puck Sunday.
“That’s really good news,” Boudreau said.
The Wild’s trip starts Monday with another matinee game against the Islanders in Brooklyn; Boudreau said Sunday he thought goalie Devan Dubnyk would start that game but backup Alex Stalock would get a game during the week “in all likelihood.”
This road swing does include a back-to-back at its conclusion, with the Wild visiting the Devils Thursday before stopping by Madison Square Garden Friday for a date with the Rangers. But before then, the Wild will have the opportunity to bank rest and practice time – two valuable commodities this time of the season.
“If you look at our team, we’ve got I think it’s eight players 30 years or older,” Boudreau said. “I think rest is going to be good as long as they rest.”
Although the Wild will face only Eastern Conference teams on this trip, the urgency that’s headlined its recent battles with Western Conference rivals should still surface in these games.
The Devils and Islanders are vying for the East’s wild-card spots, while the Rangers proved to be a competitive bunch during their recent 3-2 loss to the Wild.
“Every game is big,” Boudreau said. “Every single game I think from here on in is going to be like this. It's a grind for an awful lot of teams, and it’s going to be a battle of attrition. I think whichever team can handle it the best is going to succeed.”