Playing five times at home in the matter of six games, the Minnesota Wild had the prime opportunity to make a move in the Central Division.
With two games left in that span, sandwiching the Thanksgiving holiday, Minnesota is hoping to salvage its remaining two games beginning Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Wild return home having lost back-to-back games with Monday’s overtime loss at Dallas.
“We did fight back twice, and that’s something we haven’t done a lot of,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau told the team’s website after Monday’s loss. “I thought we got better as the game went on. It’s a hard-earned point in here, and the points are gonna be very valuable to come by, cause it’s gonna be tight.”
In the previous three home games, the Wild won once. In November, the Wild have lost three of four home games after starting the season by winning the first four games on home ice. The November schedule hasn’t been kind to either team.
Winnipeg has lost three games in a row, all three coming on the road. The Jets lost 3-1 at Carolina on Sunday. After playing 17 games in 29 games, two days off was a welcome respite.
“We’ve played well up until the last two games,” head coach Paul Maurice told the team’s website, adding: “We need the mental break from those two, and now we get back to teams that we play a lot, and we understand the style of game that’s going to happen, and try to get back on that winning track.”
Minnesota and Winnipeg are tied in the division with 20 points, but the Wild have played three fewer games. Minnesota also won the first game between the two teams, opening the season with a 4-3 victory at home.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk saved 14 shots in the victory and should start on Wednesday after Darcy Kuemper started against Dallas. Dubnyk had allowed nine goals in nine starts before stopping 31 of 34 shots in a loss to Colorado on Saturday.
Eight of the last 12 meetings between the Wild and Jets have been decided by one goal. Minnesota has also played in six straight one-goal games.
The Wild could get defenseman Marco Scandella back in the lineup on Wednesday. Scandella has missed 10 games with a high ankle sprain and is eligible to be activated off long-term injured reserve. Scandella has been practicing with the team.
“It’s never fun getting hurt and I knew it wasn’t going to be a two-day injury,” Scandella told the team’s website. “It’s hard to watch games. You just want to be a part of it when you’re part of a team, you see your guys battling and you’re not a part of it. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m real excited to get back.”
Winnipeg is hoping for reinforcements, as well. Forward Drew Stafford participated in Tuesday’s practice, according to the team’s website. Stafford, who scored 21 goals last season, has been out since Oct. 25 with an upper-body injury.
“There are other things that you have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, so that if you do come back, you’re at 100 percent,” Stafford told the team’s website. “I’ve just been preparing every day to make sure I’m ready.”
Maurice said Stafford’s status would be decided on Wednesday.
“He needed to get through a full practice and feel good,” Maurice said. “As of now he did, but we’ll wait until tomorrow morning to make sure that continued.”
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