RALEIGH, N.C. – The Wild’s 11-game point streak, which is the second-longest in franchise history, wasn’t the only run to end Saturday.
A rigorous stretch of 20 road tests in 30 games finally finished with the 6-2 loss to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena, a challenging trek that has the Wild eager to get back to Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s crazy,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Travel wears on you, as much as we don’t want to admit it. Now that it’s over for a while, you can talk about it. But it grinds on you. You see it in guys’ energy, and it’s good to go home.”
While the team did clear a major hurdle by nearly completing half of its road schedule in early December, it won’t be too long before the team is back traveling.
After a three-game homestand – the team’s longest to date, as it’s played the fewest home contests in the NHL (10) – begins Tuesday against the Ducks, the Wild will start another three-game road trip next Sunday.
“It’s been ridiculous,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “It is what it is. But definitely on the road this long, it’s hard. It’s hard. You come into good buildings, crazy fans like tonight against good teams. It’s not easy to win in this league. I’m happy we got the four out of six points [on this trip], and we want to win this upcoming week. So we’re going to rest up at home.”
Once it returns to St. Paul, the Wild will have some questions to answer.
-Can it cut back on the top defensive pairing’s workload?
Suter (25 minutes, 43 seconds) and Dumba (26:17) logged the most ice time on the Wild, this after Suter played 29:53 Thursday in Tampa and Dumba 28:23.
“They’re good players, but there’s nobody in this league who can continually play 30 minutes and be successful,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “ … We gotta find a happy medium for sure there.”
-Will the power play rebound?
While the unit was in a groove for most of the Wild’s point streak, it’s sagged lately.
Before going 0-for-4 against the Hurricanes, the Wild went 0-3 in the first two stops on its road trip.
“It was just kind of a combination of not executing very well,” center Eric Staal said. “We just were not putting pucks on the tape and just not making easy plays to each other, and it included the power play.”
-Does the Wild recalibrate or start a different streak?
The first game back after a lengthy trip is usually a challenge, but the Wild can’t afford to start to slide.
It’s climbed back in the playoff conversation; now it has to stay there if it wants to remain relevant.
“We’ve been winning and we had a recipe to win, and we strayed from it,” winger Ryan Donato said. “But we have to make sure we stay positive. We did have a great streak but kind of gave it away. If we go back to our game that we know we can win, it’ll have the best outcome for us.”