Call it Love Potion Number 43 for the Minnesota Wild, only this January, the Wild isn't feeling so lovesick.
The past two seasons, the Wild and Sabres have met in game number 43 on Minnesota's schedule. And each time, the Wild was in need of a win, and came away with one in convincing fashion.
Two years ago, the Wild defeated the Sabres 4-1 to end a six-game losing streak. Last year, in Devan Dubnyk's Wild debut, Minnesota shut out the Sabres 7-0 in Buffalo at First Niagara Center.
"I didn't even actually put that together, but I guess it’s the same team," Dubnyk said. "A lot has changed since then."
With the victory, the Wild snapped another six-game losing streak (0-5-1) and began to climb back into the playoff race. Twelve points behind the eighth place team at game number 43, the Wild went 26-19-3 down the stretch to reach the postseason.
"I remember looking and thinking, 'Oh, they're only 12 points out, it's not a big deal,'" Dubnyk said. " It was a blessing to have that naïve outlook coming into it, and not really thinking it was a big deal."
Since joining the Wild, Dubnyk has a 45-20-6 record with a .929 save percentage, and 2.02 goals against average. As Dubnyk said, a lot has changed since the trade.
"Obviously we're in a bit of a different position than we were last year, and a good part of that is due to Devan, and what he's done for us," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
The losing streak the Wild is attempting to snap on Tuesday is a much more modest one game. Minnesota just completed a record-setting first half by earning 52 points, and the annual Wild-Sabres game number 43 has a different outlook for Minnesota.
"Last year we were on a losing streak if I remember correctly," Jason Zucker said. "That game — I think we won and kind of turned it around a little bit from there."
It was a whirlwind day for Dubnyk, who took a red-eye flight to meet the Wild in Buffalo 362 days ago, and went on to start 38 consecutive games.
"It's fun, and it's a good story. Obviously it's not something bad that you're reflecting on that you're trying to forget," Dubnyk said. "It's fun to think back on it. It still seems crazy that it's only been a year."
Now the Wild is in a playoff spot, hoping to build off that record pace from the first half of this season.
And according to Yeo, Dubnyk has been an instrumental piece of that puzzle.
"I've said this before: it's been a good partnership," Yeo said. "The team, the way that we play has helped Devan a lot, but we can't say enough about what he's done for the group."
CARTER TO SIT
Forward Ryan Carter, who missed the Wild's game a week ago in Columbus with a hand injury, will be out Tuesday night.
He will be replaced by Chris Porter, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.
"He's doing ok," Yeo said of Carter. "Not good enough to play for sure, and not sure on this weekend yet."
Rookie defenseman Mike Reilly is expected to play his third straight game. He's been in the lineup in place of Nate Prosser, who also is recovering from a hand injury.
Yeo said there's a chance Prosser could be ready for this weekend, and that he thought Reilly's game improved against New Jersey.
"I would say he offensively was one of our bright spots last game," Yeo said. "He had a little bit more poise and composure with the puck in our zone, and just a little bit more confidence."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Zucker
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Chris Porter – Jarret Stoll – Erik Haula
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Mike Reilly – Jonas Brodin