ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The NHL All-Star break is over, and the team to beat in the Western Conference is your Minnesota Wild.
They’ve got more points than anyone else in the West, despite playing fewer games than all but one team.
And now the stretch run begins.
That brought a spirited first post-break practice for the Wild on Monday, as they seek to re-start the fantastic momentum with which they closed the first half of the season – a stretch that saw them win 21 of 25 games.
“We put ourselves in a good spot,” Zach Parise said, “But I think that we’re still pretty determined to get better and become better and still tune up areas that we feel we have to.”
It sure is a different spot than they’ve been in the last few years, when they’ve come out of the All-Star break needing to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs. Now they’re operating from a position of strength.
“A little different position,” Charlie Coyle acknowledged, “But we need that same attitude that we brought previous years. So obviously we’re in a spot we want to be, and we want to keep there, stay there and set ourselves up in a good position come playoff time.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’ll continue to caution his team that there is still a lot of work ahead.
“You just talk about it every day,” he said. “We’ve won nothing. I’ve gotten a lot of praise in January and December before, and a lot of, ‘boy you stink’ in May and June. So there’s a lot to work for here.”
One of the most interesting things about the Wild coming out of the break is their schedule: Their next four games are on the road – the Western Canadian road trip – followed by eight straight at home. And while you’ll certainly hear all the right things from the team about taking them one at a time, this upcoming stretch could certainly play a major role in their quest to lock up a top playoff seed.
“We’re just gonna try,” Boudreau said. “That’s all we do.”
That road trip begins Tuesday night in Edmonton, then right into Calgary on Wednesday night.