The Wild has been mostly productive in recent weeks, pocketing at least a point in 10 of its previous 11 games before its momentum was derailed by losses to the Coyotes and Avalanche.
And although that rhythm lifted the team to the third spot in the Central Division, this two-game rough patch was enough to drop the Wild into a wild-card spot – a slide the team can reverse Sunday at home against the Red Wings.
“That’s the way this game goes,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s tough to watch it. That’s why when it’s your turn, you gotta win.”
This is the first time the Wild has dropped two straight in regulation since Dec. 22 and 23; the team hasn’t lost three in a row since Nov. 4-8 – the only time that’s happened this season. What made the defeats in Arizona and Colorado surprising is they came on the heels of impressive wins over the Sharks and Blues – the latter a 8-3 rout.
“We had three bad periods,” Boudreau said. “It’s a grind. I’m not letting the players off the hook, but you can’t be great all the time. We gave them one scoring chance in Arizona until the third period. We got a couple against us, and it just snowballed into Colorado. We’ll forget about that and start to play the way we’re capable of today.”
Captain Mikko Koivu and center Eric Staal didn’t skate Sunday morning, but both are OK, Boudreau said. It also looks like defenseman Nate Prosser will be back in the lineup after sitting out Friday, a decision that gives the Wild a more experienced blue line against a Detroit squad it hasn’t faced since the first game of the season.
“If you look at their forward lines, they’re pretty good,” Boudreau said of the Red Wings. “They got great speed, and they’ve been built on speed for years and that’s what they do. I think it’s important to get the lead on them and play the way we’re capable of playing. It’s gonna be a hard-fought game because no game is easy anymore.”
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Daniel Winnik
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
3: Goals for captain Mikko Koivu in the last three games.
18: Points for the Wild since Feb. 6 – most in the Western Conference.
199: Career points for winger Nino Niederreiter.
1: Goal has decided 11 of Detroit’s last 14 games.
10: Points for Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg in his past 13 games.
About the Red Wings:
Since an opening-night matchup with the Wild, the Red Wings have been mostly up and down. The team has won a season-best four in a row only once, while its longest skid has been six games – twice. Overall, at 62 points, Detroit is ahead of only three teams in the Eastern Conference. Center Dylan Larkin leads the team in points with 47, while winger Anthony Mantha paces the pack in goals with 21. Goalie Jimmy Howard is 18-21-7 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.