The Minnesota Wild carries a 7-1-0 record into its game on Saturday against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota is hoping to re-find some of that success after returning from a four-game road trip in which it finished 1-2-1.
"It's a good boost for us, and we always enjoy playing here," Devan Dubnyk said. "We talked about it this morning: It's not just going to magically going to make us play better, being here, and we're trying to build what we're doing.
"Certainly we'll try to use it as an advantage, but we have to be ready to go tonight for sure."
One area Minnesota would like to improve is its starts to games. The Wild trailed in the first period in each game of the previous four, but has identified some elements it thinks it can do better.
"We looked at some video this morning, and some areas we have to get better at, and more than anything it's just the urgency in the little parts of the game," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "There are lots of good plays in every game, and quite often it's the little things that add up to be the difference at the end, and that's an area we have to be better."
More than anything, the players said its on them to perform better, and while they expect a bump from the home crowd, playing at home won't simply fix everything.
"There are a couple of parts of it," Yeo said. "Coming back home, the energy of our crowd, the excitement of playing in our building, and the confidence of knowing what we've done in the past, plus you add in the opponent we're playing tonight.
"But the flipside of it is we still have to get better in our game, and we cannot assume that just coming home is going to fix some of the problems we've seen in the last couple of games."
ZUCKER GOOD TO GO
After a scary moment at the end of the Wild's 4-2 loss against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, Jason Zucker said he was feeling fine after taking part in morning skate.
"It was more of just a little scare than anything," Zucker said. "At first it was painful, and then it was just numb after that. It just went completely numb, so first it was more just trying to figure out what it was, and then that was it."
After getting slashed on the back of the leg by Bruins forward Matt Beleskey, Zucker remained down on the ice, writhing in pain, before eventually being helped to the locker room.
"We went and saw their doctors, and they looked at it, and determined that it was all right," Zucker said.
Back with his teammates on the ice for the first time since sustaining a sprained MCL was forward Zach Parise.
Having missed the past six games, Parise joined his teammates for morning skate, which fits with the plan Yeo outlined on Friday.
"It's the first step obviously, and I talked to him out there, and it's very different from the controlled skates that he's been in," Yeo said. "Morning skates are pretty light."
The next step is a meeting with doctors later today, which could determine if Parise can resume practicing, as he continues to build closer to a return.
"I just think the main thing right now is let's just hear what the doctors have to say, and then we can decide how quickly we can try to get him back," Yeo said. "But obviously putting his health first, and his long-term health first, making sure that when he comes back that he's going to stay in."
Wild captain Mikko Koivu said in many ways, the milestone he'll surpass tonight was much like the one he celebrated earlier this season when he played his 10-year anniversary in Minnesota.
Koivu is slated to play his 700th career game tonight—all with the Wild—making him the second player to accomplish the feat in a Wild sweater after Nick Schultz.
"You're kind of thinking about a little bit of what's happened in the past," Koivu said. "But at the same time it's just one game, and I'm just trying to prepare the right way, and get us in the right path again as a team, and get us a good game, a good 60 minutes, and hopefully that brings us the win."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Thomas Vanek – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Schroeder
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Brett Bulmer
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Nate Prosser – Christian Folin
NOTES FOR SATURDAY'S GAME
A lot going on in and around the arena on Saturday, so some reminders of what's going to be taking place. Saturday the Wild is hosting its annual Toyota Food Drive. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, which will be collected at Gates 1-4 from 5:30 until the start of the first period. More information can be found here.
Also before the game, fans can attend the grand opening of the Wells Fargo WinterSkate Rink. From 5pm-6:30pm fans can enjoy the artificially chilled ice rink in the heart of downtown Saint Paul near Rick Park and Landmark Plaza. During that time, fireworks will also be shot off from the park. More information can be found here.
If you're coming to the game, or downtown, take advantage of the Wild's partnership with Parking Panda and secure a spot at one of several convenient locations near the Xcel Energy Center. More information can be found here.
Lastly, start Saturday's festivities a little earlier with our pre-game happy hour, from 4:45pm - 6:30pm, on top of the box office at Xcel Energy Center.
Two full bars will be serving Anheuser-Busch beers, liquor and Chankaska wine, as well as 20oz bottles of soda and water as you gear up for tonight’s match-up against the Nashville Predators. Popcorn, chips, and candy will also be available for purchase.