It has been nearly two months since the Minnesota Wild won on the road. At least they now have standout left wing Marian Gaborik available to help them end that skid.
The Wild try to halt a 10-game road losing streak Tuesday when they open a four-game trip against the Flames in Calgary, where they haven't won in over three years.
No team this season has been as inconsistent as the Wild (21-18-3), who are an NHL-best 17-4-2 at home, while last in the league with only nine road points in 19 games.
Minnesota is 0-9-1 in its last 10 road contests since a 7-6 shootout victory over Nashville on Nov. 16. It has not scored more than three goals in any of those 10 games and has converted only four of 46 power-play opportunities during that span.
Avoiding an 11th straight road defeat won't be easy since the Wild have six losses and one tie in seven visits to Calgary since a 3-0 victory on Nov. 7, 2003. Since winning their first game in Calgary on Nov. 5, 2000, the Wild are 1-10 with three ties there, including a 5-2 loss on Dec. 12.
The Flames (21-15-4) put together a franchise-record 10-game win streak at Pengrowth Saddledome earlier this season and are one of the league's best teams on home ice at 16-5-0.
"It's time to step it up," Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez said. "I think all of us have to look in the mirror and make sure our game is in order to go on the road."
Gaborik returned to the lineup Saturday after a 34-game absence due to a groin injury and had a team-high five shots on goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to Colorado.
Playing mostly on the Wild's fourth line, Gaborik showed no loss of speed - but his shot was a little off.
The 24-year-old forward, who signed a three-year, $19 million contract this summer, scored a career-high 38 goals last season despite missing 17 games due to a groin problem.
"My legs feel fine, but there's some rust in my hands," Gaborik said. "It was great to jump in and play again. It's been a long time."
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire has to decide where to play Gaborik, a choice made difficult by the recent success of Mikko Koivu with linemates Pavol Demitra and Mark Parrish. Another option for Lemaire would be to put Gaborik on a line with Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, which would be one of the league's quickest.
While Minnesota just got its star forward back, Calgary will be without its best player for at least a few more days. Jarome Iginla, among the league leaders with 53 points, suffered a knee injury in Thursday's win over Florida and is sidelined indefinitely.
Byron Ritchie scored twice and Dustin Boyd added his first NHL goal, lifting the Flames to a 4-2 victory Saturday over Dallas in their first game without Iginla since Jan. 19, 2004.
Boyd was one of two forwards called up from Omaha of the AHL on Friday to take the place of Iginla and Chuck Kobasew (concussion), both hurt Thursday.
"With a guy like Iginla out and Chuckie, you can't fill that void completely. You've just got to go out there and make the most of your opportunities," Boyd said.
It was the fourth win in five games for Calgary, which is three points behind Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.
|Mar 29 '07||CGY 4 at MIN 2||J. Iginla|
|Mar 27 '07||CGY 1 at MIN 0 - SO||A. Tanguay|
|Mar 17 '07||MIN 4 at CGY 2||B. Rolston|
|Feb 28 '07||MIN 1 at CGY 2 - SO||J. Iginla|
|Jan 26 '07||CGY 1 at MIN 2 - SO||P. Demitra|
|Jan 09 '07||MIN 0 at CGY 3||D. Langkow|
|Dec 12 '06||MIN 2 at CGY 5||J. Iginla|
|Dec 07 '06||CGY 2 at MIN 3 - SO||M. Koivu|