ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild are coming down the home stretch, literally.
With eight games remaining in the regular season, Minnesota begins a season-long, five-game homestand Friday night against the Calgary Flames. The Wild can also make a significant impact on Western Conference playoff positioning.
In a rare case of back-to-back home games, Minnesota hosts Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings. The Flames are the only team left on the Wild’s schedule which is out of the playoffs entering Friday. Calgary is in ninth in the West and one point behind Los Angeles (88 points).
"It’s similar to what we ask on the road," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. "Quite often, that first game is different in so many ways than playing the second part of a back to back. But quite often as equally challenging in that sometimes you’ve got one eye on that second game and we cannot afford that right now. We have to make sure we’re ready to go all-in to this game."
Five games at home could help the Wild clinch their own playoff spot. Minnesota (91 points) is the top wild-card team in the West ahead of Winnipeg (90 points). The Wild trail Chicago for third place in the Central Division by three points heading into Friday night.
Yeo would like to see his team duplicate its performances on the road back at home. Minnesota has won 10 straight road games and has more road wins (22) and points (46) than at home this season. The Wild are 20-11-5 (45 points) while playing fewer home games than on the road.
Minnesota finishes the season with a three-game road trip.
"I don’t think our record at home is justified the way we play," goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "I think we’re an extremely good team at home and we can be overwhelming. We’ve been really close in those games that we’ve lost at home. If you watch the last minute of the game, we could have scored three goals in the last when we’re pushing at the end. We just got to stick to what we’ve been doing and be excited that we have this advantage of having five games at home because it really is an advantage for us to be playing here."
The Wild have lost three of their last five games at home and four of seven. Each loss has been by one goal.
"What it comes down to is how we play the game at home," Yeo said. "Obviously it’s a big game (Friday), so how we prepare for the game is very important. What it comes down to for us is coming back home, we can’t have any idea or sense that we’re just going to go play better by making nicer plays. Those plays develop by doing certain things. For us, it comes down to getting back to a team that’s tough to play against at home."
Dubnyk will make his 33rd straight start Friday as Yeo said he will keep the same lineup from Tuesday’s win in New York. Dubnyk could again draw the assignment for back-to-back starts after having two days off and having a four-day break on the back-end of the back to back.
"It’s two games in two days," Yeo joked about handling two games in the span of eight days. "Quite often this time of the year, getting a little bit time off is good. But sometimes getting a little bit too much time off can be a challenge too. I know that we need practice time right now and I know that we need rest. We’ll get those two things."
Minnesota will host the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Winnipeg Jets next week before finishing on the road at Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis.
"I do know that when we come back out of that four-day break, we’re going to have to try to be making sure that our battle level hasn’t dropped at all and making sure that the pace or timing in those pressure situations, we haven’t lost that either," Yeo said. "Sometimes you get into a bit of flow when you’re playing game after game after game. But again, I do know that the rest and the practice time will be in good use."