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Wild prepare for lengthy East Coast road trip against top-tier teams

Upcoming road trip features Washington, Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon breaks up a pass against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota won 2-1.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL -- It wasn’t pretty on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. Not at all. Apparently that was by design.

Looking at the advanced metrics in the lead up to the game, the Minnesota Wild realized the Arizona Coyotes were last in the NHL when it came to getting the puck out of their own zone after an opponent dumped the puck in. Naturally, the Wild wanted to take advantage of that over the course of 60 minutes.

“That was our game plan,” winger Ryan Hartman said. “Just dump the puck in the whole game.”

Thus, though the Wild didn’t blow out the Coyotes like some thought they might, coach Dean Evason could not have cared less. He was happy to earn the 2-1 victory regardless of how it looked.

“We were happy that we didn’t deviate,” Evason said. “We stayed with what we thought was going to give us a chance to have success tonight, and ultimately it did.”

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Still, the Wild (24-14-4, 52 points) are going to need a much better effort on the upcoming road trip with games against the Washington Capitals (23-16-6, 52 points) on Tuesday, Carolina Hurricanes (27-9-7, 61 points) on Thursday, Florida Panthers (20-20-4, 44 points) on Saturday, and Tampa Bay Lightning (27-13-1, 55 points) on Tuesday, Jan.24. If the Wild play like they did against the Coyotes on Saturday, that swing east is probably not going to go well for them.

“Obviously we’ll play some top-tier teams in the league and it’s going to be a tough road trip,” winger Mats Zuccarello said. “It’s good to hopefully get this bad game out of our system.”

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) deflects a puck in front of Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in St. Paul.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports

Asked why the Wild have been rather inconsistent with their play over the past couple of weeks, Zuccarello offered a simple explanation.

“You play good teams every night,” Zuccarello said. “It’s hard to have A-plus games every night.”

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Nonetheless, the Wild are going to need to win at least a couple of those games on the upcoming trip if they want to be successful. In the meantime, the Wild will celebrate the win they earned on Saturday, enjoy some time away from the rink on Sunday, and head east on Monday.

“It feels like we’re away for most of the month,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It’s good to get home in front of our fans and obviously get two points. Even though (the Coyotes are) low in the standings, they’re still a good team. It’s never easy. Just glad we came out on top with two points.”

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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