Something Has to Give When Wild Face Columbus
For most of the season, the Minnesota Wild had no problems winning at home, but struggled when they hit the road. The Wild have now turned things around, and look to extend a franchise-record road winning streak when they begin a five-game trip by visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
The Wild (26-20-4), who lost 11 straight road games from Nov. 20-Jan. 11, closed out the first half of the season with four straight road victories, a new franchise record.
They have a good chance to continue the streak, as four of the five opponents on this trip have fewer points than Minnesota's 58. The Wild, though, could still to improve their power play away from the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota has just 10 power-play goals in 106 chances on the road, and is 0-for-18 with the man advantage in its last three road games.
"We just have to work together," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I'm a little worried about, on the road, the power play, because we do not work together. If we can get that going, get that on the road, we'll be fine."
The Wild also enter the trip with some momentum after snapping a four-game home losing streak with a 2-1 shootout victory over Calgary on Friday. Minnesota had won 17 of its first 21 home games before the recent slide.
Pavol Demitra and Petteri Nummelin scored in the shootout to lift the Wild, who moved within one point of Calgary and Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.
"It was a good two points for us. We need two points almost every night to make the playoffs," Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom said.
The Blue Jackets (19-25-5) got the second half of the season off to a good start, beating Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo 3-2 at home on Friday night. Columbus rallied with two goals in the third period and improved to 3-22 this season entering the final 20 minutes.
"It was a playoff atmosphere," said Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, who is 14-12-3 since taking over for the fired Gerard Gallant. "This is the loudest I've heard it this season."
Rostislav Klesla tied the game for the Blue Jackets five minutes into the third period and Dan Fritsche put in a rebound four minutes later to give Columbus the lead for good.
"During the second intermission, we regrouped," Fritsche said. "We knew what we had to do - we had to go out there and take over the game."
Columbus has won three of its last four games, including its last two at home. The Blue Jacket embark on a three-game road trip to end the month of January after this contest.
Minnesota has won two of the three meetings this season between the teams, with Columbus' only victory coming at home.
-- Associated Press