ST. PAUL — It’s crazy how quickly this thing has gone sideways for the Wild.
After a resounding road victory over the Colorado Avalanche two days after Christmas, the Wild returned to the Xcel Energy Center for a lengthy homestand only three points out of a playoff spot.
But two weeks later, the Wild (46 points) are spiraling down, and find themselves seven points out of a playoff spot. Worse, the team is heading into arguably its toughest stretch of the season.
With games against Pittsburgh (61 points), Tampa Bay (58), and Dallas (56 points) coming up, this week could be make or break for the Wild (46).
It’s officially gut check time.
“How do we want to look at it?” coach Bruce Boudreau wondered aloud Monday. “We can look at it the negative way, like, ‘Oh my god. Look who we’re playing this week.’ Or we can look at it, like, ‘Listen, the best way to get out of a rut is to play the best teams.’ That’s the way I want to take it.”
That message resonated throughout the Wild locker room after a condensed practice Monday at TRIA Rink.
Nobody is panicking amid the free fall in the Western Conference standings. At least not outwardly.
“That’s the best way to get out of something like this,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “You have to have a challenge, and looking at this week, we will have a challenge in every game. It should be a good test for us. That’s what we need right now. There’s no better way to start building that confidence than playing good against the best teams in the league.”
After traveling to play the Penguins, the Wild host the Lightning on Thursday and the Stars on Saturday. That should help considering they boast a 11-5-4 record at Xcel Energy Center even with their recent struggles.
“We have been really good at home this season, just looking at the whole body of work,” winger Jason Zucker said. “We just have to start to get back on a roll. I think this week is going to be big for us. Just take it one game at a time.”
That means not overlooking the Penguins, Zucker said, while also trying to use that game as a springboard to better things.
“This is going to be a good time for us to make sure we’re playing well,” he said. “We have to make sure in every aspect of these games that we’re playing our best. We just have to make sure we’re playing our game. If we do that, I think it could be a good week for us.”
Maybe the most important thing as far as Koivu is concerned is making sure nobody gets too down on themselves. There’s still a lot of time left to right the ship.
“You always have to remember to take the good from every game,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard when things aren’t going to the way we want. We just can’t get away from the way we do things. The only way to get out of that is to do the work every day, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s up to us to find it.”