The Wild. 5-2-3 on the road since Dec. 1, looks to snap a three-game losing streak (three goals scored) tonight in Nashville.
Ryan Johansen, whom the Wild coveted, will make his home debut for the Predators, who are also struggling right now. They’re 0-4-1 in their past five (outscored 21-10), although they rallied for a point Thursday against Winnipeg, and are 1-5-2 since their last regulation win Dec. 28.
Johansen has two goals and three assists in four games since arriving from Columbus.
The Wild lost in Nashville last month for the first time since Oct. 8, 2013. It also snapped a nine-game point streak in December that night. The Wild is 5-2-2 in its past nine in Nashville and won three games here in the final six weeks of last season.
Devan Dubnyk will start for the second consecutive night. Dubnyk was lights out in the second half of back-to-back situations last season, giving up seven goals in his past six such scenarios.
He's 0-1-1 this year with five goals allowed.
Coach Mike Yeo indicated there will be a lineup change tonight. Ryan Carter isn't on the trip and since the Wild hasn't called up any forwards, Mike Reilly is either playing for Nate Prosser or the Wild will dress seven defensemen.
Perhaps Erik Haula, who played only eight minutes and was basically replaced by Jarret Stoll on the third line after his turnover led to a goal last night against Winnipeg, won't play.
The Wild has scored 29 goals in the past 14 games (2.07 per game), four of which were empty-netters. That means 25 goals with a goalie in net in the past 14 games (1.78 a game).
This is crazy for a team that at one point not that long ago was top-10 in goal scoring in the NHL. Now it's down to 17th.
"We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve been here before," Yeo said.
Asked if it's frustrating that this team always seems to find its way back here though, Yeo said, "There’s maybe what three teams in this league that haven’t been here before. That’s part of it. That’s part of the journey. At the end of the year, there’s teams that make the playoffs. I would say almost all of those teams at certain points of the season faced some adversity or gone through a tough time and the only thing that matters is how you come out of it.
"I don’t care where we are, who we’re playing against, whether it’s home, away or who the opponent is, we have to build our game back. We had a couple poor performances and with that we lost a little bit of our swagger in our game, but we’ve also lost our purpose a little bit in how we’re playing. We’ve been a turnover machine the last couple games and that’s killing us."
Yeo said the lack of offense lately is because of those of those turnovers, saying you can't score when you're backchecking or in your own zone all game.
Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and others say the Wild hasn't been creative enough in the offensive zone, that they're not holding onto the puck enough, that they've become predictable.
Also, trade rumors continue to swirl and Yeo said while nobody is waiting for a trade, he said it probably has become a distraction for players like Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella.
"There’s no question you get three young defensemen that are reading the paper and they’re looking at the fact that they might be getting traded or at least they’re reading that that’s a possibility, and that’s a distraction," Yeo said. "But when we talk about the journey at the end of the year, those teams that are in the playoffs, you have to get through tough times, you have to be able to fight through distractions.
“That’s what we have to be ready for.”
I reported earlier this week that the Wild offered Brodin in a package to Columbus for Johansen before he was dealt to Nashville and that Dumba’s name has come up in talks with Tampa Bay about Jonathan Drouin.
Fletcher has said multiple times that the Wild’s abundance of depth of defense organizationally could lead to a trade for an offensive forward, particularly a center.
“From a player’s standpoint, there’s no reason to waste your energy thinking about that,” said Parise. “If we wait for something to happen, in the meantime we’re going to lose our next seven games. And then what? We can’t sit here and hope and be concerned and wait for outside help. That’s not up to us. That’s up to Chuck.”
Added Pominville, “To say that one guy’s going to come in and be a hero all of a sudden would probably be misjudging the team. It’s more about us finding more ways to create more.”
Asked if he felt the Wild needed a shot in the arm, Yeo said, “No. I just think that we need to play. When we’ve been on top of our game, we were one of the higher scoring teams in the league, but the way that we create, we have to be on the same page.
“We create through No. 1 good defense and our counterattack and the speed of our attack, but the decision making when we’re on top of things, making the right reads ... "
Pominville has no points since Dec. 22. He's one of several slumping forwards this calendar year -- Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, etc.
"I don’t really judge it by points or goals," said Pominville. "Right now I feel like I’m playing better. Just haven’t had any really luck with me scoring or guys scoring, but I like my game better now than I did maybe at the start of the year. It’ll come if I keep working and playing the way I have lately."
Yeo said that the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line often have great first periods, but then things "erode."
The Wild is 6 for 60 on the road on the power play and has 22 power-play goals all season. To put that in perspective, Patrick Kane has points on 24 of the Blackhawks' 32 power-play goals.
Yes, Kane has more power-play points than the Wild has power-play goals
By the way, I've mentioned this before, but players and coaches from both sides say the ice at Xcel Energy Center has been poor all month. It is probably because the arena is hosting the figure skating championships and slowly but surely the arena staff has had to thicken the ice by adding layer after layer.
Parise says it's no excuse for the way the team is playing, but he and many feel that's why the games have looked in general so bad.
"I don’t know what has happened, but I've never seen it so bad," said Parise, saying the ice has been slow, choppy and that pucks are "bouncing like crazy" and won't sit flat.
Again, no excuse for the Wild going 0-3-1 at home this month, but if you think about it, all four games have been awful to watch.
Plus, because of the ice being shaved back down, the Wild isn't expected to be able to have its morning skate before the Jan. 25 Arizona game at the arena.
I'll be on Fox Sports North tonight during Wild Live and the first intermission. We'll talk trade rumors, Drouin, Anze Kopitar, John Scott, etc.