No longer satisfied with simply winning, the Minnesota Wild
expect to be at their best every time they take the ice.
The surging Wild look for a more complete effort and second
consecutive victory when they visit the struggling Montreal
Canadiens on Thursday night.
Marek Zidlicky scored in the final minute of regulation and
Mikko Koivu added two assists in Minnesota’s 2-1 victory over
Columbus on Tuesday. Though the Wild (16-14-3) have won three of
four and are 9-2-1 since losing four in a row, they feel they can
play better, especially after failing to take advantage on a flurry
of chances early in their latest contest.
“We need to find a way to play great hockey for 60 minutes,”
said Niklas Backstrom after making 21 saves Tuesday. “We want to be
a team that plays every night, plays their best hockey 60 minutes.
We’re happy with the points, but not the whole 60 minutes.”
Minnesota has a new focus after rebounding from a 1-6 start, but
is still in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings.
The Wild will look for that elusive total effort when they open a
brief eastern Canadian road swing to Montreal and Ottawa.
The Wild have a chance to continue their recent success while
facing the Canadiens (15-17-3), who look to avoid matching a season
high with their fifth consecutive loss.
Minnesota is 3-3-1 with a tie all-time versus Montreal, which
has won the last two in the series. The Wild lost 2-1 at home on
Oct. 30, 2008, and 4-2 in their last visit to Montreal on Nov. 22,
Koivu snapped a four-game scoreless streak Tuesday and leads the
team with 23 assists and 32 points. The brother of former Canadien
Saku Koivu, Minnesota’s Koivu has been held without a point in
three games versus Montreal.
Martin Havlat added an assist against Columbus, giving him two
goals and four assists in his last three games. He has six and nine
assists in 21 career games versus the Canadiens.
Backstrom is 14-10-3 with a 2.44 goals-against average on the
season and has allowed two goals on 67 shots while winning his last
three starts. He made 31 saves during the 2006 loss in his only
appearance against the Canadiens.
Travis Moen scored an unassisted, short-handed goal in
Montreal’s 2-1 loss at New Jersey on Wednesday. The Canadiens have
lost four in a row, all by one goal. They dropped five straight
from Oct. 6-17.
“We’ve got to keep improving,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin
Carey Price made 25 saves, but lost his third in a row while
falling to 9-12-3 with a 2.73 GAA. Though Price made 28 saves last
season in his only previous appearance against Minnesota, backup
Jaroslav Halak could be in net.
Halak, who’s never faced the Wild, is 6-5-0 with a 2.91 GAA this
Montreal’s Michael Cammalleri was held scoreless Wednesday after
scoring six of his team-leading 18 goals in his previous six games.
He has five goals and five assists in his career against
This will be the first game for Minnesota forward Guillaume
Latendresse against his former team. Acquired from Montreal on Nov.
23, Latendresse has three goals and one assist in 10 games with the