NEW YORK – For the Minnesota Wild, the puzzle has been different the past month, while many of the pieces remain the same.
Coming out of the NHL All-Star break against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Wild is in the midst of an offensive drought during which Minnesota has taken more shots, but has scored less.
Since Jan. 2, the Wild has scored 23 goals in 13 games, a per-game average of 1.77. The Wild has averaged 28.9 shots on goal per game over that stretch, and has gone 3-7-3.
Compared to Minnesota's first 36 games, in which it went 20-10-6, and scored 2.7 goals per game taking 28.0 shots per game, the only dramatic difference in the two stretches has been Minnesota's shooting percentage, which has dipped from 9.6 to 6.0.
"Whether some of that could be a little misfortune — I don't like to refer to that," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "Certainly confidence, not pulling the trigger as quickly, but I would say net-front has been a big issue as well."
Yeo communicated over the break with the Wild's data collection team. Their numbers backed up what Yeo and the rest of the coaches have been seeing: a less effective offensive with many of the same ingredients.
"They analyzed to see where our game was at, and what's been lacking," Yeo said. "It was interesting coming from, again, when we chart the scoring chances, it's not like there has been a huge drop-off."
It can amount to a frustrating script: Doing things the same, if not better, but not seeing the results.
"The frustrating part is when it starts to happen over, and over, and over for a stretch of games where you feel like you're doing things right, but you're on the wrong end of it," Ryan Carter said. " Hockey is a weird game: You may go out and get outshot and outplayed for three games, and go on a streak and win three."
And while the Wild has continued to play well defensively, sixth in even-strength goals against since Jan. 2, that's hardly a consolation.
"We're not into a whole lot of pats-on-the-back for something like that," Yeo said. "We haven't been winning hockey games, and we need to win hockey games."
Instead, the Wild will continue to look to improve in areas that could facilitate more goals-for.
"Offensively, we have to get more creative," Ryan Suter said. "We have to be willing to go to the hard areas, and get more pucks to the net."
The post All-Star Game schedule has been a stretch the past two seasons the Wild has excelled in. But like its offense, Minnesota also isn't expecting things to just get better, unless they start playing like it.
"It's not just going to come to us, it's not just all of a sudden going to bounce our way," Yeo said. "And if we look at the big picture too much, if you try to make up for what's gone on the last month in one game tonight, than you're going to be disappointed."
The only expected change to the Wild's lineup on Tuesday is forward Carter back on the fourth line, in place of Justin Fontaine, with Erik Haula and Chris Porter.
Carter has missed the Wild's past seven games with a hand injury.
"I'm feeling good. The break was a good chance to recharge the battery," Carter said. "Yesterday's practice was good, and this morning felt good too, so I'm looking forward to getting things going in the second half."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Thomas Vanek – Jarret Stoll – Jason Zucker
Ryan Carter – Erik Haula – Chris Porter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Jonas Brodin
Nate Prosser – Matt Dumba