Wild looking to get back on track against Devils
The Minnesota Wild did not leave a positive impression in their first game after losing captain Mikko Koivu to a season-ending right knee injury.
Then again, they are not creating many positive impressions with their performances of late.
The Wild own the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference but are on a four-game losing streak heading into Saturday afternoon's visit to the New Jersey Devils.
Koivu tore the ACL and meniscus in his knee during Tuesday's loss at Buffalo when he collided with Sabres right winger Tage Thompson. In their first game without Koivu, the Wild gave up a goal just 2 minutes, 15 seconds after the opening faceoff and lost at home Thursday 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers.
"Whenever you hear about our leader going down, it's a little bit of a lull," Minnesota left winger Marcus Foligno said. "But you'd think in that sense, you'd pick yourself up with the character you have in this room and want to play for Mikko."
Instead, the Wild remained at 57 points as five teams behind them in the standings gained at least a point Thursday. Minnesota is two points ahead of St. Louis and only seven points separate the Wild from the last-place Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference.
Joel Erikkson Ek, recalled Wednesday in the wake of Koivu's injury, scored the lone goal for Minnesota Thursday in a game when the Wild did not get their first shot on goal until about halfway through the first period.
The Wild are one loss shy of their longest losing streak of the season set Dec. 15-27. They went 10-5 in their next 15 games following the five-game skid before stumbling in their last four contests.
"It's either find your sense of urgency and do what you have to do to win, or bad things are going to happen," Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said.
New Jersey's 48 points are the second-fewest in the league and the Devils are 15 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey is 2-5-1 in its last eight games and has lost its last four home games (0-3-1) since getting an 8-5 victory at home over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 14. Since losing Taylor Hall to a concussion on Dec. 23, the Devils are 8-9-1.
The Devils began going into sell mode on Wednesday when they traded Brian Boyle to Nashville. A day later, they took a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.
New Jersey started goaltender Cory Schneider Thursday and he stopped 27 of 28 shots before allowing a shootout goal to Josh Bailey. It was Schneider's first appearance since returning fan rom abdominal injury that landed him on injured reserve Dec. 17. He is 0-5-1 this season.
"It's nice to feel good and play well and feel like you think you should," Schneider said. "But like I said, it's just one game. It's all about moving forward. I want to stay in the moment and not say I had one good game, it's going to happen automatically. You have to keep at it and keep digging and working. Hopefully, I can get on a roll and get into a rhythm like I have done here in my career and kind of re-establish my game."
Kevin Rooney scored the lone goal for the Devils, who have been outscored 7-2 in their last two games, but New Jersey is hoping for more production from players such as Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
Palmieri leads the Devils with 23 goals and 40 points, but since getting two goals on Jan. 14, he has one goal and one assist in his last eight games.
The Devils will be without Miles Wood on Saturday due to an upper-body injury but Zajac is expected to play after clearing the concussion protocol.
Zajac was hit in the ear by a puck in the first period on Thursday and the injury required stiches. He passed the concussion protocol during the game and eventually returned.
New Jersey is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings with the Wild.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 8, 2019