It’ll be another week before the Wild faces an opponent currently below it in the standings and although this looks like the worst time for the team to tackle such an arduous schedule, it would make snapping its season-high five-game losing streak even more meaningful – starting Saturday when it visits the Jets at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.
“We know we got a tough stretch ahead of us,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So if we can do it during the tough stretch, more power to us.”
After catching up with its Central Division rival, the Wild will return home to host the Penguins on New Year’s Eve before embarking on a four-game road trip that begins in Toronto against the Maple Leafs – who are second overall in the NHL.
The Wild has struggled in Winnipeg before, losing all three of the road games in its first-round playoff series against the Jets last season. But the team recognizes how significant it would be to rebound against tough competition.
“We can use [Saturday] as a big win that can propel us, just give us confidence and start something going here,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “We need something to move and to budge and playing against a top team in your conference and on the road, it can spark a lot of confidence for our group.”
Goals have been hard to come by lately, with the Wild scoring just five during this slide. And while the team has had ample shots on net, amplifying the quality of those looks is key.
“It’s easy to say, ‘We had 50 shots,’” winger Jason Zucker said. “But we need to look where those shots are coming from, as well. I think that’s something we need to look at in the mirror and realize not every shot we’re taking is a Grade-A scoring chance. That can also be a very good thing that we’re trying to get it there and get to the net, follow up on those rebounds. If there’s a play to be had, I think we need to make it and I think we need to drive to the net and put in some rebounds and score some goals.”
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Charlie Coyle-Luke Kunin
Jordan Greenway-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter
Marcus Foligno-Eric Fehr-Matt Hendricks
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Greg Pateryn
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
16: Points for winger Mikael Granlund on the road this season.
16: Power-play goals against the Wild, second fewest in the NHL.
16: Goals for winger Zach Parise, one more than he scored all last season.
3: Points for center Eric Staal in his last two games.
63: Career points for Staal in 73 games vs. Winnipeg.
About the Jets:
Winnipeg has climbed to the top spot in the Western Conference, with 24 wins and 50 points. The Jets are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are among league leaders in goals-per-game average (3.46) and power play (28.2 percent). They’ve been particularly effective on home ice, going 13-5-2. Winger Patrik Laine leads the team in goals with 23, while center Mark Scheifele paces the pack in points with 49. Captain Blake Wheeler has the second-most assists in the NHL at 43.