The slumping Minnesota Wild are looking to reignite their offense after a forgettable few games.
A matchup against the NHL’s worst team could help them regroup.
The Wild try to avoid a fifth straight loss when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Article continues below ...
Minnesota (7-7-0) is looking for answers after getting outscored 14-3 in its last four games. The Wild are likely looking forward to returning home after closing a three-game trip with Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to New Jersey, falling to 2-6-0 on the road.
Ryan Carter provided all the offense with a short-handed goal as Minnesota went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Wild have converted a league-worst 4.5 percent (2 for 44) of their chances on the man advantage, just behind Buffalo’s mark of 5.7 percent (3 for 53).
"We had so many good looks," forward Jason Pominville said. "But at the end of the day, we need to find a way to put it in the back of the net and we didn’t.
"We just have to keep battling, keep fighting, until we can get some of our injured guys back."
Zach Parise is expected to miss a fourth straight game with a concussion, but defenseman Jared Spurgeon (upper-body injury) is nearing a return after a five-game absence. Parise leads the team with 10 points.
"We all know adversity can be good for you if you handle it the right way," coach Mike Yeo said. "But it’s how you respond to it. This is when you see what you’re made of."
The Wild are seeking a third straight win over the Sabres (3-12-2), after Pominville had a goal in each game against his former team last season. Buffalo is averaging 1.1 goals to rank last in the league and is 29th with 3.5 goals allowed per game.
Despite the Sabres’ struggles, the Wild aren’t expecting anything to come easy.
"I know that they have a lot of things that could present a challenge for us, but if we’re thinking of anything other than ourselves right now then we’re doing ourselves a disservice," Yeo said. "We have to figure our own stuff out here and it starts with playing a 60-minute hockey game."
Buffalo has dropped four in a row, including back-to-back 6-1 losses to Pittsburgh on Saturday and St. Louis on Tuesday. Michal Neuvirth allowed all six goals on 29 shots against the Blues, dropping to 1-3-0 with a 3.51 goals-against average on the road.
"We’re still learning and we’re still growing," coach Ted Nolan said. "We’re trying to find little bright spots here and there to build upon."
One of those moments may have come Tuesday when the Sabres quickly came to the defense of Tyler Ennis following a late hit in the second period.
"I was very happy and proud of my teammates. I owe them one for having my back," Ennis told the team’s official website. "That’s what teams do. Good teams, tight teams, we stick up for each other and that was really nice to see."
The Sabres may turn back to Jhonas Enroth, who is 1-7-1 with a 3.63 GAA. He is 1-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA against the Wild.
Minnesota’s Darcy Kuemper is set to make his first appearance against Buffalo. He’s gone 5-1-0 with a 1.48 GAA and two shutouts at home.
Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta is finally ready to return after working his way back from a serious knee injury and facial surgery. His last NHL appearance came Oct. 10, 2013.