After the Wild finishes cramming 23 games in a 46-day span, its workload starts to get lighter.
The team will be idle for four consecutive days once it gets through next Monday’s home game against the Kings, its longest layoff since the All-Star break at the end of January.
But before the Wild can reach that reprieve, it’ll rattle off three games in four days with another back-to-back in that stretch — a pattern in the schedule that’s yielded mixed results for the Wild this season.
“Back-to-backs are tough in this league, especially with the travel,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Especially when the other team’s waiting. There’s a lot of energy spent every night by every team, so back-to-backs are tough. But they are what they are. We got 15 of them. We gotta find a way to win a couple more.”
Through 12 of those 15 doubleheaders, the Wild has fared better in the first game — going 6-5-1. It’s had a more difficult time with the second half, as it dropped to 4-7-1 after a 4-1 loss to the Oilers Saturday in Edmonton. The night before, the team was solid in a 5-2 win over the Canucks.
The next back-to-back will also be exclusively on the road, with the Wild in Vegas on Friday before visiting Arizona on Saturday. After that, the Wild has two straight games at Xcel Energy Center March 24 and 25 before playing its final back-to-back on the road in Anaheim (April 4) and Los Angeles (April 5).
Travel certainly can make the test more challenging, but it’s an unavoidable reality of the schedule. As a result, dealing with the ensuing fatigue becomes key and one way the Wild can do that is to simplify its play.
“When you’re not feeling it,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said, “you have to take a step back and just do the little things better.”
Defenseman Nick Seeler didn’t feel a change in his right arm when he was trading blows with Detroit’s Luke Witkowski, as adrenaline took over during the rookie’s first career fight March 4.
But once he reported to the penalty box to sit for five minutes, Seeler sensed it.
“Didn’t know what was wrong at the time,” he said, “but thankful it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Just happy to be back.”
The fight that flipped the momentum in that 4-1 win for the Wild over the Red Wings also caused a right biceps strain for Seeler, an injury that — coupled with the flu — sidelined him for three games before he returned to the lineup Tuesday. Gustav Olofsson was the team’s lone healthy scratch against the Avalanche.
“I just think it’s part of the game, sticking up for your teammates and trying to go change the momentum a little bit when it calls for it,” Seeler said.
Rather than traveling with the team to Vancouver and Edmonton for the games over the weekend, Seeler remained behind; he skated, watched the Wild’s action on TV and also caught some of the boys’ high school state tournament.
“I feel really good,” Seeler said. “My arm’s feeling a lot better.”
Before facing the Avalanche, forward Charlie Coyle had scored in the previous two games and had tallied at least a point in three straight — a jump Boudreau attributes to a grittier style from Coyle.
“He’s gotten a little mad,” Boudreau said. “When he plays angry, he’s really good. He seems to be angry the last couple games.”