Coming off a series of low-scoring contests, the Wild will try to ignite its offense Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, who come to town riding a three-game winning streak.
The last time the two clubs met, at TD Garden in Boston on Oct. 25, Minnesota put three goals past Malcolm Subban and two past Zane McIntyre for a decisive 5-0 shutout. The goaltending pair competed in place of starter Tuukka Rask and backup Anton Khudobin, who were both unavailable due to injury.
But the Bruins got their No. 1 netminder back four days later against Detroit, and since then, Rask has been outstanding, posting three shutouts in eight games. Last week, he garnered a record of 4-0-0, a save percentage of .970 and a goals-against average of 0.75 to earn the NHL's First Star of the Week honors.
Rask's current level of play is bad news for the Wild, which has struggled in the month of November to generate the kind of offensive firepower it had the last time it played the Bruins.
In its past six games, Minnesota has gone 2-4-0 and scored just nine goals. In two of those defeats, the Wild were shut out by a score of 1-0, including Tuesday night's game against the flagging Calgary Flames.
"It's still a one-goal game [late]," said Wild forward Zach Parise after the loss. "You still have a chance to get a shot and tie the game up, so we we were still right there. I just think the game as a whole, we gotta be a lot better."
One of the key reasons Minnesota was unable to get a tying goal against Calgary was its near-continuous march to the penalty box, out of character for one of the lesser penalized teams in the League. Forward Chris Stewart fought Deryk Engelland in the first period and defenseman Matt Dumba received a double minor for roughing in the third.
While the Wild certainly wants to keep that physical mentality in its game, players expressed the need to stay out of the box.
"We killed the whole second period. It just kills the flow, kills the bench. It's tough," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "But we battled and continued to try and play. [Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk] was good. The stuff we gave up, he was there and then kept us alive to try and tie it in the third."
Lucky for Minnesota, Rask is not the only goaltender in Thursday's matchup playing at an elite level. Dubnyk has kept the Wild in many of its close games as of late, giving up two goals or less in nine of his 12 starts. His save percentage of .948 and goals-against average of 1.60 has him on pace for a career year.
With five of the Wild's last six games and nine of its 15 games this season decided by one goal, Thursday's contest is shaping up to be another defensive battle between two hot goaltenders and whichever offense can solve one of them.