The Wild just as easily could have pivoted the other direction after a lopsided 6-2 loss to the Hurricanes last Saturday.
Not only did the result snap the team’s 11-game point streak, but it exposed the fresh holes in the team’s lineup due to injury.
No captain Mikko Koiuv, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon was missing, too.
But instead of letting that adversity derail it, the Wild vowed to regroup and recover.
And in the week since, that’s exactly what the team did – putting an exclamation point on that progress by capping off a three-game homestand Saturday with a 4-1 win over the Flyers that improved the team to 10-1-4 in its last 15 games.
“We have the leadership, the character, in this room to get it done,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “I think guys see it as not ‘poor me’. This is an opportunity for some young guys to kind of get some more ice time.”
That could be the case again Sunday when the Wild starts a three-game road trip in Chicago.
Center Joel Eriksson Ek left Saturday’s game in the second period after getting hit in the corner by the Flyers’ Sean Couturier. After the game, coach Bruce Boudreau said Eriksson Ek was doing better but whether he could play against the Blackhawks wouldn’t be determined until Sunday.
If Eriksson Ek can’t suit up, the Wild has an extra forward on the roster in Gerald Mayhew but he’s a winger. To fill Eriksson Ek’s spot, the Wild could tab Ryan Hartman or Luke Kunin. Both have experience at center but are currently playing right wing.
“We’ve got a few candidates,” Boudreau said.
Goalie Alex Stalock was idle for most of the Wild’s three-game homestand, sitting as the backup for the first two tests, and Stalock wasn’t much busier in the finale.
He faced just 18 shots, stopping all but one, to lift the Wild to 2-0-1 on the week with one more test to go Sunday in Chicago.
“It was a weird game,” Stalock said. “You look at the score clock in the third period the shots were like 14-7. You’re like, ‘What is going on? They’ve got an offensive group, and they can skate. It’ just one of those nights where the game gets played like that sometimes in an 82-game schedule. Kept them to the outside. Our penalty kill was fantastic tonight; we got that back on track.
“Yeah, it was one of those games where you just kind of chipped away. Fun to win a game like that.”
A night like that, however, isn’t exactly a breeze for a netminder because it can be a challenge to stay focused.
“It really is,” Stalock said. “But we did a great job.”
Center Eric Staal was just a point shy of 999 after scoring twice, but Boudreau forgot about the impending milestone until someone on the bench reminded him near the end of the game.
“I went, ‘Oh, man. I forgot,’” Boudreau said. “And then I put him out there for the last minute and something hoping he could get it. I’m sure good things will happen.”
The Wild received one special-teams goal, but it wasn’t a power play marker.
Defenseman Carson Soucy buried a puck into an empty net in the waning stages of the third period on the penalty kill, the Wild’s second shorthanded goal of the season.
So, the power play remains in a funk, going 0-for-18 over the past six games after finishing 0-for-5 Saturday. But the PK was a perfect 3-for-3.
“I've got to believe at some point they're going to figure it out and get better,” Boudreau said. “It's been six games now. I was really happy to see the penalty kill get going today because they have struggled, too. Special teams has been the thing that's been hurting us but if we can continue to do the right things 5-on-5, then eventually those other two things will turn around and come back.”