GLENDALE, Ariz. – When he worked out of the visitors’ bench inside Xcel Energy Center as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, winger Marcus Foligno thought of the arena as a tough stop on the road circuit — one in which it would be difficult to pry two points away from the Wild.
And after struggling in St. Paul last season, the Wild seems to have restored this reputation as an inhospitable host by going 9-1-3 at home.
“This team’s got some swagger here,” said Foligno, who picked up a goal and two assists in the Wild’s 8-5 victory over Arizona on Thursday night. “If we keep this home record up and going north like we are, all we have to do is fix a few things on the road and we’ll be a good hockey team.”
With more than half its road itinerary already completed, the Wild won’t travel much for the next two months.
A Saturday afternoon matchup with the Jets is the start of 18 of the next 22 at Xcel Energy Center for the Wild, whose 13 home games are the fewest in the NHL. And considering how successful the team has been on home ice, this shift in the schedule could be just what the Wild needs to continue to climb the standings.
The team is on a 12-game point streak (9-0-3) in St. Paul, its longest run since registering the franchise-best 13-game streak (10-0-3) from Dec. 27, 2017-Feb. 13, 2018. It hasn’t lost at the X in regulation since the home opener (7-4 to Pittsburgh on Oct. 12), a bounce-back showing that suggests the 16-18-7 setback in 2018-19 is an anomaly and not the start of a decline.
“At home we can kind of sort out the matchups a little bit better, and I think guys are knowing how we’re going to run our bench and who’s playing where,” said center Eric Staal, who also had a goal and two assists against the Coyotes.
“When you get results, you start to believe in that more and it continues to grow. Obviously, confidence is big, and guys are playing really well. We just want to keep that momentum going.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was back in action against the Coyotes after missing the previous seven games because of a hand injury.
The Wild returned defenseman and Woodbury native Brennan Menell, who played five games during Spurgeon’s absence including his NHL debut, to Iowa of the American Hockey League.
Spurgeon was hurt Dec. 3 in Florida after a shot from the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov hit him in the right hand, and he immediately knew he was in trouble.
“Whenever you find out something like that, you’re always worried about it,” Spurgeon said. “We have good doctors that can look over it and put together a plan. Fortunately, it wasn’t as long as we thought it would be.”
The Wild announced Spurgeon would be out approximately two weeks, so his return 16 days after he suffered the injury was right on schedule. And although he was sidelined because of a shot block, Spurgeon said that won’t affect his willingness to get in front of other pucks in the future.
“Once you get into the game,” he said, “your adrenaline takes over and you just go back to normal.”
Spurgeon was a plus-1 and, bravely, blocked two shots in 22½ minutes against Arizona.
The holiday roster freeze took effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday and will last until 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 28.
During this time, players on an NHL active roster, injured reserve or with nonroster and injured nonroster status can’t be waived, traded or loaned, with a few exceptions.