Flyers-Wild Preview

The Minnesota Wild have limped into December after being the

league’s hottest team for most of last month.

The Philadelphia Flyers put together an impressive November to

get out of the Metropolitan Division basement, and they feel like

they’ve entered this month heading in the right direction.

The Wild look to avoid a fifth straight loss Monday night when

they host a Flyers team seeking a third consecutive win.

Minnesota (15-8-5) was a November-best 9-1-1 on the 23rd before

going 0-3-1 over the final week. The Wild had totaled two goals in

the three regulation losses and it appeared they would be blanked

again until mounting an impressive comeback Saturday at

Colorado.

Matt Cooke spoiled the shutout bid with 3:27 left to pull

Minnesota within one and Mikko Koivu tied the score with 6 seconds

remaining to salvage a point. The Wild ended up losing 3-2 in a

shootout to get swept by the Avalanche in a home-and-home series,

but coach Mike Yeo was encouraged by the rally.

”That’s a huge point for us,” Yeo said. ”We lost the skill

competition at the end of the game, the shootout, whatever you want

to call it. Bottom line I really believe we deserved the win in

regulation.”

Minnesota kept the pressure on Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov,

tallying 11 shots in each period and adding four more in the extra

session to match a season high with 37.

”It’s up to us to just try to keep each other positive and the

fact that we’re getting those scoring opportunities is a good

thing,” said Cooke, who scored his first goal since Oct. 12. “We

just need to stay on it.”

The Flyers (12-12-2) arrive in Minnesota fresh off a 9-4-2

November after entering the month with the league’s second-worst

record.

They opened a six-game road trip with a 3-2 shootout victory

over Nashville on Saturday for a second straight win. Claude Giroux

scored in the first period and Sean Couturier’s goal at 13:06 of

the third tied the score at 2.

”It’s huge to start off the road trip the right way,” said

Couturier, who has notched two of his three goals this season in

the last two games. ”I think we deserved the win by battling hard,

not quitting and coming back.”

Although the win was big for Philadelphia’s confidence, coach

Craig Berube was quick to point out there is room for improvement.

The Flyers are 0 for 7 with the man advantage in the last two games

after scoring a power-play goal in each of their previous eight

contests.

The Wild, mired in their longest skid since a five-game slide

from Feb. 28-March 6, 2012, are also struggling with the man

advantage, going 0 for 9 over the last five games.

Each team could have trouble getting those units going

considering Minnesota has killed 8 of 9 penalties in its last five

games and Philadelphia has killed its last 11.

Solid goaltending has obviously had something to do with that,

and goals could be at a premium if Josh Harding and Steve Mason are

between the pipes.

Harding has allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of his 18 starts

and is tied for the league lead with a 1.52 goals-against average,

while Mason is 6-1-1 with a 1.72 GAA since Nov. 9.

Mason, however, is 1-3-0 with a 3.04 GAA against the Wild over

the last two seasons.

The Flyers have outscored the Wild 11-2 in winning the last two

meetings, and are 6-1-1 in the series since 2003-04.