While the Carolina Hurricanes seek to keep their heads above water during a stay at home, the Minnesota Wild hope a lengthy road trip won’t sink them without their biggest star.
Each looks to stay afloat during a pivotal early-season stretch that starts when the Wild visit the Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Minnesota (9-3-2) will play without Zach Parise for at least another week after he sprained his right MCL during a 3-2 home loss to Nashville on Nov. 5. The Wild survived their first two games without their top goal scorer at home, though, with victories of 1-0 over Tampa Bay on Saturday and 5-3 over Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Now, the Wild open a four-game road trip at Carolina, one that coach Mike Yeo says will be tough without Parise.
"We got five (goals on Tuesday), but we can’t expect to get five every night," he said. "We’ve got key guys out of the lineup, and now going on the road, it’s going to be a good test."
Minnesota has surprisingly flunked its last four away from home.
The same team that tied an NHL record with 12 consecutive road victories at the tail end of last season is 2-2-2 this time around. After winning their opening two away games, the Wild have lost two in regulation and two in overtime.
Scoring has been an issue for the Wild, who have totaled eight goals in their last four road games after tallying nine in their first two.
The good news was an outburst against the Jets that featured a pair of goals from Thomas Vanek. The 11-year veteran’s six goals is second to only Parise’s seven, but his two against Winnipeg snapped a six-game slump without one.
During the second period, Vanek was moved to a line with Jason Pominville, who he skated with frequently from 2005-2012 when the two were teammates in Buffalo. It’s a move the Wild are hoping can spark more offense, especially for Pominville who has six assists but hasn’t scored yet.
Pominville has 14 goals and 14 assists in 34 career games against Carolina, while Vanek has 15 goals and 20 assists in 32.
"I’ve struggled in this league before too, just like every other goal scorer does," Vanek told the team’s official website. "Sometimes all it takes is one, even if it’s an empty-netter."
The Hurricanes (6-9-0) couldn’t get any of their 33 shots past Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday in their only road contest over a 10-game span from Oct. 30-Nov. 22. It was Carolina’s third loss in four games after it won three in a row to close October.
Carolina came up empty on a pair of first-period power plays and the Rangers scored 11 seconds apart for a 2-0 lead in the first.
"It’s definitely frustrating, but it is what it is," captain Eric Staal told the team’s official website. "We’re going to have to be sharp in all areas, execute and be better."
A season-long five-game homestand over 11 days should help but the Hurricanes are 2-4-0 at PNC Arena, scoring just 14 goals.
Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk has won his last three starts against the Hurricanes and stopped 37 shots in a 3-1 road victory March 6. Carolina’s Cam Ward is 3-0-1 with a 2.76 goals-against average against the Wild.