After playing 24 of its 41 road games before the end of December, the Wild will now spend most of the next few months at home – starting Sunday when it hosts the Islanders at Xcel Energy Center.
“Every day is a different challenge,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Every game is not only a different opponent but a different style of play from each team, so we have to be ready for it.”
This 5 p.m. clash is the beginning of a four-game homestand, and 16 of the team’s next 19 games will be in St. Paul.
Considering how successful the Wild has been on home ice this season, losing only twice in regulation through 15 contests, this stretch could help the team continue to scale the standings. After edging the Avalanche 6-4 in Colorado Friday, the team sat just one point back of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s a pretty good division, and we knew this week was going to be a very tough week with the Islanders and Leafs coming in, too,” Boudreau said. “So, to start off the week off like this even though it’s Friday … that’s pretty good.”
Although captain Mikko Koivu practiced Saturday with the team, it’s unlikely he suits up against the Islanders.
Koivu has been out since Dec.3 with a lower-body injury, missing the last 11 games, but it’s possible he does return at some point during this homestand.
“It felt obviously better to be with the guys,” Koivu said. “It's the same old story. You get back from an injury and it's just mentally [good] to be around the team and on the ice and all of that. And obviously once you get into a team practice, you know you're getting close so that makes you excited.”
Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Donato-Joel Eriksson Ek-Kevin Fiala
Jordan Greenway-Nico Sturm-Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno-Victor Rask-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Carson Soucy
Brad Hunt-Matt Dumba
6-4-1: Record for the Wild in its last 11 matchups vs. the Islanders.
30: Goals for the Wild in those six wins against New York.
30: Points for the Wild since Nov.14, the most in the NHL.
10-2-3: Performance at home for the Wild this season.
11: Points for center Eric Staal in the last eight games.
About the Islanders:
New York is ranked among the top teams in the NHL, but it’s been sputtering of late. The Islanders are 1-3-1 in their last five and opened their three-game road trip Friday with a 5-2 loss in Chicago. Center Mathew Barzal leads the team in goals (16), assists (16) and points (32). The Islanders are 10-6-1 on the road. Former Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck is out with a wrist injury.