The Wild, 0-3-1 at home this month and 2-5-1 in its past eight home games, return to Xcel Energy Center tonight to take on the Arizona Coyotes.
It’s the Wild’s final game before taking eight days off for the All-Star break. Teams aren’t allowed to practice until 2 p.m. local time next Monday, so the Wild will oddly have a mid-afternoon practice next Monday before flying to New York and landing at 8 p.m. ET time the day before opening a three-game road trip against the Islanders in Brooklyn.
That’s a change in normal routine, and speaking of changes in routine, Xcel’s ice wasn’t ready for the Wild and Coyotes morning skates this morning because of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
That’s why the Wild practiced yesterday at Ridder. Normally after a long road trip and travel, the Wild would have taken yesterday off and skated today. The team got ice at St. Thomas Academy, but the Wild and Coyotes only sent a handful of guys there each.
The Wild guys that skated were Jordan Schroeder, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Carter, Tyson Strachan, Matt Dumba, Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom.
I’d assume Schroeder and Strachan would be officially reassigned during the All-Star break so they’re not eating into the Wild’s cap during the break.
Former Coyote Devan Dubnyk, a few days before his first All-Star weekend with his excited family, vs. Louis Domingue (8-4-3 with a 2.17 GAA and .927 SV%) tonight.
The Wild wants to head into the break feeling better about itself.
“Considering the way things have gone lately, we could either try to point to some positives with a good result tonight or certainly steer back to some negatives,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Yeo feels the Wild is starting to look more like itself. The Wild played well in Anaheim and as usual found a way to lose there. The Wild played a solid game in shutting out Los Angeles and the Wild played a decent game in San Jose only to give up a goal with 1:24 left.
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out in games or not even close,” Yeo said. “The margin of error has been so small and shouldn’t be too difficult for us to turn things around. If we can get sharper in some areas, we can start going on a run the other way.”
The Wild was in such a worse position last year after the All-Star break.
The Wild sat in 12th place in the 14-team Western Conference, seventh out of seven teams in the Central Division, seven points behind Calgary for the second wild-card spot, 14 points behind Winnipeg for the first wild-card spot and 16 points behind Chicago for third in the division.
It came out of the break and went on a 24-5-1 run with no consecutive regulation losses.
By the end of that run, the Wild wound eight up on ninth-place Calgary, five up on Winnipeg and actually briefly passed Chicago into third.
But Yeo said it’s important that players don’t exhale early with the All-Star break around the corner and many players a day from hopping on planes for warm-weather vacations.
“The group recognizes this is an important game,” Yeo said.
Added Dubnyk, “If we didn’t need the points as bad as we do, it might be easier to let the mind slip toward the break. But we need this one tonight, so we’ll make sure we’re ready.”
Dubnyk also said, “We’ll get back on track. It’s no secret we’ve got a great team in here. Every team goes through little dips throughout the season. It’s about getting out of it and we’re on our way to doing it.”
Carter will miss his seventh consecutive game with a hand injury tonight, but he’s practicing again and the hope is he’ll be close to returning after the break.
That’s it for now.
I’ll be hosting my podcast with Jim Souhan at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub today at 4:30 p.m., so come on by. Also, Star Tribune Fans Night Out with Wes Walz and myself will occur before the game, so go to wild.com/fansnightout for more info.
I’ll also be on Fox Sports North Plus before the game and during the first intermission to talk about the Wild at the break, the latest in Loui Eriksson and Jonathan Drouin and much more.
Lastly, remember those four kids I featured a few weeks ago who road-tripped the Wild's four-game trip? If you forgot, here's the fun story.
I mentioned in the article they were doing a video on the trip. Came out pretty neat. Here it is: