The Detroit Red Wings battle the Minnesota Wild this evening (7:00 PM EST on NBCSN/97.1 FM) with the Red Wings hoping to snap a 2-game losing streak.
The 36-22-and-7 Wild aren’t going to make it easy on the Wings; Minnesota sits in the Western Conference’s second Wild Card spot, and very precariously so; Minnesota has also lost its past two games, with its most recent loss coming in the form of a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
Minnesota didn’t practice Saturday because they played back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday; the Wings also chose not to practice, having gotten in late from Winnipeg, so we must examine the Wild and Wings’ previous game to set up tonight’s affair.
The Wild told the Pioneer Press’s Dave Mitzutani that they would move on quickly from Friday’s loss as their playoff spot is on the line:
“There’s going to be 17 more games that we have to get up for,” Matt Dumba said Friday night. “This was a brutal game. … It’s a busy month, though, so we can’t dwell on this.”
Despite perhaps their worst effort of the season, the Wild still control their own fate. They returned home to the Twin Cities in third place in the Central Division with a chance to start righting the ship against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
“We have to forget about this one,” coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday night before quickly correcting himself. “Well, not forget about it, remember it, and do something about it. We are still in a good spot. It’s not the end of the world right now.”
Still, the Wild would be in an even better spot had it not been for their recent two-game debacle, which featured a loss to the last-place Arizona Coyotes along with the beatdown at the hands of arguably their biggest rival.
Suddenly, the Wild (36-22-7, 79 points) have only a three-point cushion on the cut line in a tight playoff race.
“Anytime that we lose one or two in a row, teams are gaining all over the place,” Boudreau said. “It’s not a positive.”
All season, Boudreau had been saying it’s going to take about 97 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. To get there, the Wild need 18 points the rest of the way, meaning they need to win more than half of their remaining games.
That makes the next week crucial, as the Wild play a number of teams currently on the outside of the playoffs. After facing the Red Wings, the next week features games against the Carolina Hurricanes (home), the Vancouver Canucks (road) and the Edmonton Oilers (road).
STATS also filed a Wings-Wild preview…
Before a two-game road trip to Arizona and Colorado, the Wild were one of the hottest teams in the NHL and seemed on a mission to clinch a playoff spot sooner rather than later.
“If you’re going to get down and think negative thoughts and not be positive about your abilities, you’re going to lose before you start. That was pretty well just the message,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after an ugly 7-1 loss in Denver on Friday.
“I’m disappointed that we’ve given up 11 goals in the last four periods. That’s not something you want to do. I’m disappointed because any time now that you lose one or two in a row, teams are gaining on you all over the place.”
Indeed, the statistics websites say the Wild’s playoff odds dropped from 94 percent to 82 percent courtesy of the two losses, as Colorado and Dallas nip at their heels.
“It’s not a good feeling right now, but we’ve got to get back at it,” said Wild forward Eric Staal, who was named the NHL’s First Star for February. “It’s one game, and we’ve got to respond on Sunday. We’ve got to get back home and be ready to play Detroit.”
Staal has been kept off the scoresheet for the last two games after totaling 13 goals and 21 points in 13 February games.
As did the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sarah McLellan…
Wild returns home after skid
Preview: The Wild returns home from a pointless, two-game road trip to host the Red Wings. In its only other meeting with Detroit this season, the Wild fell 4-2 in the first game of the season. Since then, the Red Wings have slid down the standings. Their 62 points put them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Players to watch: Center Dylan Larkin leads the team in points with 47. Winger Anthony Mantha paces the group in goals (21). Captain Henrik Zetterberg has 10 points in his last 13 games.
Numbers: The Wild has given up 11 goals in the last four periods of play. The team is 18-8-3 against the Eastern Conference. Detroit is 4-5-1 in its last 10 games and has dropped two straight. The Red Wings are 13-15-2 on the road.
The Associated Press’s recap of Friday’s Wild-Avs game underlines the urgency with which the Wild are going to approach tonight’s game…
Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild, who have lost two straight after winning five in a row to move into third in the Central Division. Minnesota has a four-point lead on Colorado and has played one more game than the Avalanche.
“Now when you lose one or two in a row teams are gaining on you all over the place,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Devan Dubnyk allowed five goals on 17 shots before being replaced by Alex Stalock after Soderberg’s goal. Stalock had seven saves for the Wild, who have allowed seven goals in both games in Colorado this season.
Landeskog and MacKinnon scored 2:26 apart midway through the first period to give Colorado a 2-0 lead, and then the Avalanche put it away in the second.
After Barrie made it 3-0, MacKinnon, Soderberg and Rantanen each scored in a span of 4:32 to make it 6-0. Soderberg’s tally, which went off Eric Staal‘s skate, chased Dubnyk.
“I’d like to get the fourth one,” Dubnyk said. “I don’t know what happened on the fifth one.”
And NHL.com’s recap provides a highlight clip from Friday’s game:
The Red Wings have lost five of their last seven games — and sure enough, all five of those losses have been by a goal.
The latest excruciating loss was Friday’s 4-3 loss to Winnipeg. And that was 48 hours after they lost 3-2 in St. Louis.
The script was similar in both losses. Friday, the Red Wings simply couldn’t put three periods together, this time, the middle 20 minutes being when the game got away from them.
“We’re not consistent enough,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “In the first we played well and they get those two goals (going ahead 2-1). We can talk about those but overall we did a lot of good things. If we had kept doing that in the second (period), we would be in a different situation (heading into the final period).”
This season the Red Wings are 9-10-10 in games decided by one goal.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s one of the reasons why we are where we’re at. We started out pretty good, we came out with a lot of energy. Then we made some mistakes in our own zone that cost us.” In the second (period), for whatever reason, we didn’t want the puck. We made it way too hard on ourselves. It’s tough when you dig yourself a hole like that.”
The Wings have gotten pretty familiar with digging holes of late…it’d be encouraging to see the team actually build a lead and hold onto it.