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Resilient Wild Opens Four-Game Home Stand

Minnesota has come a long way since Oct. 22 loss to Devils

by Phil Ervin /

ST. PAUL -- In what seems like eons ago, on Oct. 22, 2016, the Minnesota Wild waltzed into Newark, N.J. to start off its first extended road trip of the season. Before the game, an 11-foot statue of former goaltender Martin Brodeur was erected outside Prudential Center. Wild assistant and former New Jersey luminary Scott Stevens was honored with a video-board tribute. The only player to score for Minnesota was a 19-year-old who's no longer with the team this season; Joel Eriksson Ek was later assigned to Sweden to continue his development there.

Simply put, this was a night for the Devils.

But that was before new coach Bruce Boudreau's systems and knack for adaptation took hold. Before Devan Dubnyk began playing like a Vezina candidate. Before Eric Staal returned to his previous All-Star form. Before Minnesota began blowing out some opponents and stunning others with stone-faced resiliency.

A much different Wild team (28-9-5) than the one that fell 2-1 in overtime against New Jersey three months ago hosts the Devils at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.

"They just refuse to lose at this stage," Boudreau said Sunday after his team's 3-2 victory at Chicago -- Minnesota's 13th comeback win of the year. "I just hope they can continue to have that feeling through the rest of the season."

While the Wild has surged, New Jersey (18-18-9) has middled, ranking second-to-last in the Eastern Conference's stacked Metropolitan Division. But the Devils have won two straight and gave Minnesota's offense fits in the teams' first meeting.

Taylor Hall and Travis Zajac lead the Devils in scoring with 28 points apiece. New Jersey is No. 27 in the league in scoring and 28th in goal differential.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is atop the Western Conference Central Division and boasts the NHL's best goal differential (tied with Columbus) and second-fewest goals against.

Tuesday's game marks the first of a four-game home stand for Minnesota. After contests against the Devils, Coyotes, Ducks and Predators, the Wild head to Dallas next week before wrapping up the pre-All-Star-break schedule at home Jan. 26 against St. Louis.

And should the Wild fall behind in any of those games, its players are oozing the confidence it takes to storm back like they did Sunday after falling behind 2-0 to Chicago.

"You've got to believe," Boudreau said. "I think the biggest thing is believing you can. That's the first step. If you don't believe you can come back, you never come back. But if you always believe there's a chance, then there's a good chance you can do it."

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