MONTREAL – The Minnesota Wild is hoping to adopt the same mentality, efficiency, and success in its home games at Xcel Energy Center that it has found on the road recently.
Luckily for Minnesota, in that regard, it finds itself at Bell Centre on Saturday to play the Montreal Canadiens to begin a three-game road trip at a time when points are vital for the Wild.
"We've just been keeping it simple," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said of the Wild's recent road success. "We talked about it yesterday, we didn't like our home game the last three first periods, and we'll build from that, and keep getting better.
"Now we're on the road, and we just have to play our game plan."
The Wild enters Saturday two points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota has played one fewer game than Colorado, who also plays on Saturday, against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Wild has won its past two games on the road, and is 5-2-0 in its past seven in visiting arenas, all under Torchetti.
It's inspired confidence in the Wild's road game for both its coach and players, but none of them expect that alone to be enough against a Canadiens team that has earned at least a point in eight straight home games (7-0-1), and last lost in regulation at Bell Centre Feb. 3.
"We're a pretty experienced team in that regard where, if we win a game, it needs be thrown away," Devan Dubnyk said. "The next game becomes more important, and even more so if we lose. We just need to take every single individual game right now, and treat it like life and death."
A big reason why the Wild has been successful over that seven-game road stretch has been good goaltending and a power play that has clicked. The Wild's goalies have combined for a .945 save percentage at even-strength in those seven games, and the power play has scored a combined nine times.
"Anywhere (that's a good formula), and definitely on the road," Dubnyk said. "We've spoken a lot about, if we can get our PK up to where we believe it should be with our group, then we'll be in a good spot."
Dubnyk, who has a .955 save-percentage at five-on-five over those seven games (five appearances) is expected back in goal on Saturday after missing the Wild's game on Thursday with an illness.
Forward Jordan Schroeder, recalled from Iowa on Friday, is also expected to be in the lineup against the Canadiens. He did not practice on Friday with the Wild, but joined the team in Montreal, and, according to Torchetti, was brought in to add a body and reinforce that if the game plan isn’t executed, ice time won't be earned.
"We can use his speed, and he's going to get a great opportunity, and whoever sits out has to be ready for the next time that they get called in," Torchetti said. "But we can't learn any more lessons moving forward, we can't be giving up points. We have to find ways. We have to make sure we get pucks behind them, and play them down low."
Schroeder is the latest Wild player in Minnesota to have also played for Torchetti in the American Hockey League.
"There's a comfort level there with him," Schroeder said. "There's a big opportunity here for me, so I'm looking forward to it."
He said playing on a team in the playoff hunt in March is exactly where any player wants to be.
"It should be desperate; every team should be," Schroeder said. "That's how important every single game is at this point in the season. We have to take that desperation and play like it out there."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Thomas Vanek – Mikael Granlund – Jordan Schroeder
Nino Niederreiter – Erik Haula – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Carter – Jarret Stoll – David Jones
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin – Nate Prosser