The Wild will finish the calendar year Saturday in a game against Columbus that, if both teams win Thursday, will have all sorts of winning streak-related hype.
Of course, nobody wanted to talk about that today. The Wild – on a franchise-best 11-game winning streak – had a crisp 40-minute practice today at Xcel Energy Center. The only player not on the ice was Zach Parise, who was attending a funeral. They were preparing for tomorrow’s game with the New York Islanders.
Perhaps the temptation would be to look past the 14-14-6 Islanders at Columbus, which will put its 13-game winning streak on the line in Winnipeg tomorrow.
But then, you don’t build an 11-game winning streak by looking past anyone.
“They have all their parties New Year’s eve, so that’s what they’re focused on,’’ joked Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “But no, we don’t even talk about that. We’re talking about the New York Islanders. The minute you overlook a team, especially a team in the Metropolitan Division, you’re going to get beat. So when that happens, if it happens on the 31st, we’ll talk about it at that point in time.’’
Besides, there appears to be a feeling in the dressing room that the Wild needs to atone for the 6-3 loss the Wild absorbed in Brooklyn Oct. 23. That remains the only loss by more than a goal the Wild has this season. And it might have been the team’s poorest performance of the season, too.
Add in the fact the Islanders have won three straight games, over Boston, Buffalo and Washington, by a combined 13-6 score.
“We have to be ready for a team that’s playing well,’’ Charlie Coyle said. “They gave us our only multi-goal loss. They’re coming on stronger, they have that three-game winning streak. So they’re going to want to kick off their road trip with a bang. It will be a good test.’’
Yes, the players admitted they’ve been keeping track of what Columbus has been doing – “We know what’s going on,’’ Coyle said – but the momentum the Wild has created with its own streak is something they want to keep going.
“It’s the first 11-game winning streak I’ve been on since I was probably 10 years old,” Marco Scandella said. “It’s fun to be a part of it. So now we’re at home, playing the Islanders. Big game. In this dressing room we’re pretty good about that. Just thinking about what’s coming up ahead. We can’t lose our focus. It’s easy to get carried away, start playing a different way, getting fancy, getting cute. We have to stick with what’s been helping us win.’’
With Parise out, here were the lines the Wild skated at practice today:
Tyler Graovac with Chris Stewart and Kurtis Gabriel; Eric Haula with Nino Niederreiter and Coyle; Eric Staal with Schroeder and Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu with Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker.