Wild have struggled mightily on the road

BY foxsports • January 19, 2012

TORONTO -- Sometimes it is amazing how much can change in just one month of NHL hockey. The Minnesota Wild hit their high-water mark Dec. 13 as they reached the top of the NHL standings.

To get to the top of the heap, they won seven consecutive road games and found ways to win even when they might not have deserved to. Since then, they have gone 0-8-2 away from home and seen three key players -- Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu -- go down with serious injuries.

The biggest issue has been goal production. In the 16 games the Wild have played since they were atop the NHL standings, they have scored only 27 goals, an average of 1.69 per game. Wild coach Mike Yeo seemed frustrated after the last loss Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

"We really need to get back to playing our game,” he said. "We are giving up way too much right now. If we think we are going to score goals like the 1980s Edmonton Oilers, we are quite mistaken."

In that same time frame, the Wild have given up 54 goals, an average of 3.38 per game. Before the drop in the standings, the Wild were giving up just 2.13 per game. Part of the issue might be the overall chemistry or lack thereof with a lineup that has constantly been in flux.

Just four Wild players -- Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley, Darroll Powe and Nick Schultz -- have played in all 46 games this season. The Wild have had 36 players suit up for at least one game, the most in the NHL. The team record is 40, set in 2009-10. Ten rookies have gotten ice time, third-most in the NHL behind the 11 Nashville and Philadelphia have used.

Yeo understands his team is in a tough spot on offense.

"We talked about this when Mikko went down, and the guys understand they all need to step up if we are going to avoid another prolonged slump without our captain," Yeo said.

Surprisingly, the Wild are still just one point behind the eighth-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference. The other good news is the upcoming schedule, which has banged-up Minnesota playing just four games in the final 13 days of January. In those four games, the Wild will face Toronto, Dallas, Colorado and Nashville. All four of those teams are in playoff contention, but none of them is considered a serious Stanley Cup contender. Dallas, Colorado and Minnesota are all within two points of one another in the standings, so obviously the Wild have the chance to get back in the top eight with a brief winning streak.

"We need to focus in on one game right now, and that is here in Toronto,” Yeo said of Thursday night's matchup. "Put all of our focus into playing one game and not get wrapped up in the standings or which players we are missing. If we put everything into our game the rest of the issues will take care of themselves in time."

Thursday night's game against the Maple Leafs will begin with Wild Live presented by Century Link starting at 5:30 p.m. CT.


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