(SportsNetwork.com) – The Minnesota Wild hope to return to the win column
Saturday, when the struggling club emerges from the Christmas break to host
the Winnipeg Jets in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Minnesota made it to the second round of last spring’s playoffs and was a
favorite to return to the postseason in 2014-15. Things have not gone as
planned, however, and the Wild find themselves six points out of a playoff
spot in the West.
The Wild also are sitting fifth in the Central Division — eight points behind
the fourth-place Jets and just one ahead of Colorado.
Minnesota is currently mired in a four-game losing streak (0-2-2), matching
the club’s 0-4 mark from Nov. 4-11 for its lengthiest skid of the season. The
Wild haven’t dropped five straight since an 0-6 slide from Dec. 19-31 of last
The usually sting Wild have imploded defensively during their current slide,
allowing a total of 19 goals over the four setbacks. Minnesota yielded five
goals in Tuesday’s setback to the Philadelphia Flyers, who posted a 5-2 win to
drop the Wild to 0-1-2 on a four-game homestand.
Marco Scandella and Charlie Coyle scored against the Flyers. Darcy Kuemper
stopped 25 shots in the setback.
“I think it’s a blessing that we have three days off to step away,” said Wild
forward Matt Cooke.
Kuemper was pressed into duty for Niklas Backstrom after the latter netminder
was a late scratch due to an illness. It’s uncertain who will get the call
in net tonight.
Mike Yeo’s club hopes its recent success against the Jets can help it get back
on track. The Wild posted a 4-3 overtime win over a visiting Winnipeg club on
Nov. 16, giving Minnesota wins in two straight and five of the last six
meetings in this series.
The Wild are 6-1-1 with a tie in nine all-time home tests against the
Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. The clubs will meet again in Monday’s rematch at
Winnipeg finished its pre-break schedule on a four-game point streak (3-0-1)
and it posted an impressive victory in its final tilt before the hiatus.
The Jets visited Chicago on Tuesday and slammed the Central Division-leading
Blackhawks, 5-1. Mathieu Perreault continued his hot play of late with two
goals to lift Winnipeg in the rout at United Center.
Perreault has tallied five goals and four assists over an eight-game point
streak and Tuesday’s performance was his first multi-point game of the run.
Blake Wheeler finished with a goal and an assist, Bryan Little and Anthony
Peluso also scored and Andrew Ladd supplied two helpers for the Jets. Michael
Hutchinson, who posted a 33-save shutout in Winnipeg’s 1-0 over Chicago on
Nov. 2, was stellar once again, turning aside 38 shots for the win.
“Hutchinson was good for us and made some key saves at the right times,” said
Perreault. “When we got our chances, we were able to put them in.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice may continue his goaltender rotation tonight and give
Ondrej Pavelec the start over Hutchinson. Pavelec is 2-2-1 with a 2.55 goals
against average in seven career outings against Minnesota.