Entering a stretch in which they play five of seven games away from Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild know they’ll need to improve on the road to continue their playoff push.
A visit to the league’s worst team should help that cause.
Minnesota, which has the 11th-best record in the Western Conference, has won three of its last four games. The Wild play the first contest of a back-to-back at Detroit on Thursday before visiting Columbus the following night.
The Wild have won 12 road games, tied for second-fewest in the conference.
Team captain Mikko Koivu notched his first two-goal performance in three years on Tuesday as the Wild skated to a 5-4 victory over the Blue Jackets.
“It’s rewarding if we make the playoffs. If we don’t, I don’t think anyone will remember if I had two goals or not,” Koivu told reporters. “With one game, if you can help the team to get the win, for sure, it’s a good feeling. That’s about it, then I’d move on to the next one and like we talked before, that’s kind of the situation we are in and we’ve got to get ourselves out of it and make sure that we keep playing better and better and get some more points.”
Koivu, who is skating on the team’s fourth line, hadn’t scored in his previous 30 games. His outburst came after he refused to waive his no-trade clause prior to Monday’s deadline.
“Every line, individual and as a line, you need to be able to help,” Koivu said. “Some nights, if you don’t have it, you’ve got make sure you’re doing the things that still help the team. That’s what we have to do, from the goalies, to defense and to us forwards. It’s a team effort, it has to be that.”
That’s how Minnesota produced a 4-2 home victory over Detroit in the teams’ first meeting this season on Jan. 22. Four different players scored, with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello each delivering a goal and an assist.
The Red Wings traded away speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Mike Green on Monday, then dropped a 4-1 decision at home to New Jersey the following night. Detroit has lost seven of its last eight games.
All but one of the Devils’ goals came on their power play.
“We’ve just got to make sure that as a penalty kill we’re working together as a unit of five out there,” forward Justin Abdelkader told NHL.com. “We can’t give them easy goals, or easy back-door goals. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking away the middle of the ice as much as possible. I thought we gave them some chances there in the middle.”
The Red Wings allowed 17 shots on goal in the first period and generally looked like a team beaten down by a miserable season. Detroit has won just 15 games.
“It’s very disappointing,” center Dylan Larkin said. “I don’t know for what reason we didn’t come out and execute enough in the first and spotted them a goal. We just couldn’t find a rhythm on the penalty kill and keep it out of our net.”
Larkin has perked up offensively with two goals and four assists on his four-game point streak.
–Field Level Media