Nearly all season, the Minnesota Wild were barely ever winning on the road and hardly ever losing at home. The opposite has happened over the past few weeks.
The Wild look to avoid recording the longest home losing streak in franchise history when they meet the first-place Calgary Flames on Friday.
Since posting a club-record eighth straight home win on Jan. 2 by beating Atlanta 5-1, Minnesota (25-20-4) has lost four consecutive games at the Xcel Energy Center. That skid has matched the team record, set during its inaugural 2000-01 season.
The Wild had lost four home games - only one in regulation - all season before this four-game skid.
They had just four wins away from home this season and were mired in a franchise-record 11-game losing streak on the road before beating Vancouver 5-2 on Jan. 11. That was the first of four consecutive road victories for Minnesota, including a 3-0 win at Chicago on Friday.
However, the Wild returned home the following night and lost 2-1 to Dallas in a shootout.
Mikko Koivu scored the only goal for Minnesota and was one of only two Wild players to score in a shootout that lasted nine rounds.
"I think we're playing a good game. We're intense, we're on the puck, we're moving the puck well," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "The only thing that we're missing is the good pass from our top players in the offensive zone ... mainly on the power play, we're not getting that."
Lemaire's club is scoreless in 26 power plays over the past five games.
Despite that deficiency, the Wild went 4-1-1 in their final six games before the All-Star break to pull within two points of Calgary and Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead. However, Minnesota stands eighth overall in the Western Conference.
"It's tight, but I believe we have a good chance to make the playoffs," Koivu said.
Brian Rolston is a big reason Minnesota has a shot at the postseason, leading the team with 23 goals and 41 points. He had two goals and two assists for the winning West team in the All-Star game.
The extra time off this week could have only helped top goaltender Manny Fernandez, who left Saturday's game in the first period with a left knee injury. Fernandez resumed skating during the break, but his status for upcoming games is uncertain.
After hosting Calgary on Friday, the Wild head to Columbus to open a five-game road trip, equaling its longest of the season.
"It's going to be big games right away, so we want to be ready for those and all the way the rest of the season," Koivu said.
Calgary (26-17-4) has won two straight and seven of nine to move into a tie atop the division.
"It's where you are at the end of the season that matters," forward Marcus Nilson said. "Whatever happens before that doesn't matter if you don't end up where you want. But it is nice to be back in first."
The Flames are coming off Saturday's 4-0 victory over Edmonton, just their seventh road win of the season. Only Los Angeles has fewer road victories among Western teams.
Kristian Huselius extended his points streak to seven games Saturday with a backhand assist to Alex Tanguay in the second period, but goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was the star of the game as he made 32 saves for his sixth shutout of the season.
"He really dominated the game," Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr said of Kiprusoff. "I can't say enough about his play."
The Flames are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against Minnesota.
|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|