AVON, Colo. -- The Wild will spend much of the first 2 1/2 months of the 2019-20 season away from home. With just four games in the month of October and five more in November scheduled for Xcel Energy Center, getting its act together on the road will be of the utmost importance for Minnesota.
In an effort to summon that energy and forge new bonds, the Wild embarked on a three-day team building trip to the Rocky Mountains. A motivational speaker, a round of golf, as well as some white water rafting are among the off-ice activities players and coaches will enjoy during the trip.
"It's always fun, we've got some new faces this year as well," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. "Just to be able to get away from the rink and talk about different stuff will be [good]."
The Wild was one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference on the road last season, posting a 21-18-2 record away from St. Paul. The 21 victories were the same number as the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and were at least two more than any of the other six non-playoff teams. It was also more than both of the West's wild card teams.
Where things went sideways was at home, where the Wild posted a 16-18-7 record at Xcel Energy Center, traditionally one of the best home ice advantages since Minnesota re-entered the League in 2000-01.
Assuming the Wild is able to get its own house back in order, having continued success on the road will be critical in getting back to the playoffs following a one-year layoff.
And the amount of success the Wild has on the road this season will be largely dictated by the first 2 1/2 months, when 23 of Minnesota's 41 road games will be in the books by Dec. 19.
Enter, a team bonding trip to get things off on the right foot.
"We wanted to make sure before the season starts that we've got a tight-knit group," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We've got a lot of new guys, guys that came in at the end of last year, so I think it's important that we get to know each other on a different level than we have recently."
"We have a lot of parents on the team, so there's not that comradery off the ice that there used to be. This is a great chance for us to get together, have some fun and have a couple of good practices as well."
After an off day on Monday spent on the golf course, the Wild practiced Tuesday and will again Wednesday in nearby Eagle, Colorado to get its game back in order following a 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Minnesota's fourth exhibition game on Sunday night in Denver.
Boudreau was mostly pleased with the team's defensive effort in Denver. But after scoring four goals the night before against the Avs in St. Paul, the Wild could muster just two goals on Sunday.
That's the third time in four preseason games Minnesota has scored two goals or fewer.
And while nobody is hitting the panic button just yet, there is still plenty to learn.
"We gotta learn that when we get possession, it's not a race," Boudreau said. "If we don't have a 2-on-1 automatically, just slow the game down. That's sometimes where we get in trouble here."
Following practice on Wednesday, the Wild will hop aboard its plane and fly to Dallas for its final road preseason game against the Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday.
That game will mark one week in advance of the Wild's season opener Oct. 3 against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
(Photo by Brandon McCauley)