Improved play on the road was hyped as a second-half key for the Wild to remain in contention for a playoff spot and with the team in the midst of a season-high three-game win streak away from home – with the chance to extend that to four when it concludes its three-game trip Friday against the Rangers – the group has certainly begun to make the necessary strides.
“I think that our consistency level has improved,” center Matt Cullen said. “I still think we have a ways to go. Obviously, getting these two has been important for us but we have a lot of road games coming up. It’s going to be important that we continue our strong play on the road.”
The Wild began this trip with a 5-3 win over the Islanders Monday before posting a 4-2 victory Thursday in New Jersey. In both games, the Wild had to rally – overcoming early holes to assemble a lead that it, ultimately, was able to preserve.
“I think that’s part of it, the whole resiliency thing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think showing them the facts and showing them how bad we were on the road was sort of a wake-up call to them, especially when you were one of the best road teams in the league last year. Saying what we had to do when we were in a meeting on the road, what we had to do to be successful to make the playoffs, things finally kicked in and they realized that. Now I think they love going out on the road and winning on the road.”
Despite a solid performance Thursday by the group that faced the Devils, Boudreau said the team will make a lineup change Friday. With winger Chris Stewart and defenseman Gustav Olofsson skating late in the morning with backup Alex Stalock at Madison Square Garden, it looks like they could be out. That would mean winger Marcus Foligno returns after sitting out Thursday.
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Tyler Ennis-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Nick Seeler-Jared Spurgeon
Mike Reilly-Nate Prosser
3: Straight road wins for the Wild, its longest streak of the season.
3-5-1: The Wild’s record in the second game of a back-to-back.
3: Assists for defenseman Matt Dumba in the last two games.
5: Home wins for the Rangers over the Wild in their last seven meetings at Madison Square Garden.
16-7-1: New York’s record over its last 24 home games.
About the Rangers:
New York’s forecasted rebuild has already started. After wingers Rick Nash and Michael Grabner were kept out of the lineup Thursday against the Canadiens, Grabner was traded to the Devils later that night. Overall, the Rangers have dropped five straight – their longest losing streak of the season. They’ve also lost nine of their last 11. The team is 18-11-3 on home ice.