ST. PAUL -- The cadence of every NHL season comes with its twists and turns, respites and gauntlets. It's a grind most gratifying, the kind with which Wild center Eric Staal is mighty familiar 12-plus years into his NHL career.
But make no mistake: coming home for five of the next six games is significant, even this early in a long Stanley Cup Playoffs quest.
"Huge," said Staal, one of the biggest reasons Minnesota is 8-5-1 overall and 4-1-0 at Xcel Energy Center heading into Tuesday's tilt against Calgary. "You want to make this a difficult place to play. You've got to win your home games, and for us, we've done a good job battling on the road and picking up points, but the big thing is to make sure you're getting points at home and making this a difficult place for teams to come into."
For coach Bruce Boudreau, it's a matter of returning to consistent game action -- no matter the locale. After playing just three games in nine days, the Wild has six contests in the next 11.
All but two will be played in St. Paul.
"It's hard sitting around when you've got a bunch of athletes that just want to play," the first-year Wild bench boss said, "so playing a lot of games in a short period of time is good sometimes."
It begins with a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night matchup with the Flames (5-10-1), losers of four straight and bearers of the League's lowest win percentage (.344). Calgary's three top returning scorers from last season - Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano - have combined for just nine goals, while winger Michael Frolik leads the team with five goals and five assists.
Calgary's goal differential of minus-20 is also the NHL's lowest. At plus-13, Minnesota is tied for fourth in the League and second in the Western Conference.
Much of the credit goes to Staal, the Wild's offseason splash signing who's enjoyed a five-goal, eight-assist resurgence in the Twin Cities. Centering the Wild's top line, Staal has provided the scoring punch desired by Minnesota's front office when it signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in July.
Left winger Zach Parise may be available to rejoin the lineup after missing more than two weeks with a lower-body injury, and a lavender-adorned arena will welcome a crowd on a night commemorating cancer victims and survivors.
The Wild is 11-3-1 in its past 15 games against Calgary. But Tuesday night is more of a lesson in geography than history.
There's no place like home, said defenseman Matt Dumba, who scored the overtime winner Sunday night at Ottawa.
"We'll be fired up for that one," Dumba said of Tuesday night's clash.