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California Dreamin': Wild Heads West

Minnesota hopes to use three-game road trip as reset button

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- The weather forecast for the next week in Minnesota is typical of the state in January: temperatures won't climb above the single digits until Sunday.

Perfect timing for the Wild to head to California, where it's a balmy 55 degrees in San Jose and 65 in Los Angeles.

"Last night when I was packing up for this road trip, I put a couple things in [my] bag that you definitely wouldn't be able to wear around Minnesota in January, so that's kind of nice," said Matt Dumba. "I think it'll be refreshing seeing that sun."

 

Video: Matt Dumba Practice

After a four-day break following the New Year's holiday, Minnesota will be back in action on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks. The team flew to California on Wednesday afternoon after a quick practice at Xcel Energy Center to begin a three-game, five-day swing through the Golden State.

The trip will be a good chance for the Wild to push the reset button following its first loss in 13 games on New Year's Eve to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have now won 16 games in a row.

"We can't look at one loss as we've been playing poorly or anything like that and get us down," said Jason Zucker. "We have to use it as a reset and say, 'Alright, the streak's over, but we have the chance to start a new one now.'"

Video: Jason Zucker Practice

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau wants the team to return to its strong defensive mindset, which he feels slipped during the last handful of games in Minnesota's 12-game win stretch and in the loss to Columbus.

In its last four games, the Wild gave up 14 goals, including four goals apiece to the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and to the Jackets. Compare that to the previous nine games, which saw the Wild allow only 12 opponent goals, and Boudreau sees the need for adjustments.

"That's what we want it to be is a reset. Hopefully we worked on a couple things in the last few days that will get us back to playing the way we were before the Columbus game ... actually, before the New York Rangers game," Boudreau said. "I thought before that we were pretty solid, and that's what we want to get back to."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Practice

The California swing is one that has given Minnesota trouble in the past, particularly this trip's bookend destinations. At the SAP Center in San Jose, the Wild's all-time record sits at 9-17-3, and at the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks call home, Minnesota is 11-17-1 all-time. 

The Wild went 1-2-0 against both the Sharks and the Ducks last season, falling twice in Anaheim and once in San Jose.

"We really can't change anything," Zucker said. "We just have to make sure that we play the way that we can. We feel if we play our game, we can beat any team in any building."

Minnesota has been particularly good on the road this season, gathering a 10-5-4 record in 19 games. The next three games present a significant opportunity for the Wild to continue to climb to the top of the Western Conference standings, where it sits a point behind Chicago with four games in hand.

Even though it'll be business first, fun second for the Wild, there's no denying that the California sunshine will provide a welcome respite from the bitter Minnesota winter.

"It's gonna be a good road trip," Zucker said. "We're gonna have a lot of fun and make sure we go out and try to get a few wins."

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