Surging Wild Hoping To Find Success On The Road
For the second time in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Minnesota Wild has battled back from a 2-0 series deficit by winning consecutive games at home.
A 4-2 win in Game 4 on Friday means its second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks will go back to the United Center tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Sunday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS2).
The Wild are 1-5 away from Xcel Energy Center in the postseason, and now the job is to take whatever is working at home, where Minnesota is 5-0 in the playoffs, and carry it with them to Chicago.
"Thinking back to Games 1 and 2, I said at that time it's not like we were that far off," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We knew we could play a little bit better and I think we've picked our game up since then."
Where the Wild has improved is taking better care of the puck. Minnesota played strong games in Chicago in Games 1 and 2, but it seemed that any turnover or missed assignment wound up behind their goaltender.
"Certainly when you look back to those two games, there were parts of it that were going well and then it was a big mistake that came back at us," Yeo said. "I think we've cut down on our mistakes the last couple of games and we have to make sure that we bring that in there."
Yeo said a more aggressive style has paid off at home and he hopes the same can hold true on the road. Minnesota's forecheck in Game 4 was perhaps as good as it's been all season, forcing turnovers, creating scoring chances and contributing directly to Minnesota's first goal.
"We just have to make sure that we go out there with the same attitude and don't be afraid to make plays," Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said. "Usually on the road we play a little hesitant, almost playing like we're waiting for something to happen. We have to go out and make something happen."
In its first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild played two dominant games at home before a slow start in Game 5 eventually led to another road loss. The Wild tied the series in Game 6 in St. Paul and won it in Denver in Game 7, but Yeo said he'd like to see a better start in Game 5 this time around.
"It's a huge game," Wild forward Dany Heatley said. "But I don't feel the vibe in here that we're too confident, we're too cocky. We know they're a very good team and they play well in their rink. We're going to be prepared for that."
Wild forward Matt Moulson, who missed Game 4 with a lower-body injury, is not on the trip and will not play in Game 5. Neither will defenseman Keith Ballard, who was injured late in the second period of Game 4 when he was hit from behind into the boards by Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig.
Ballard did not return to the game after hitting his face and head hard against the glass. He got to his feet and skated off the ice slowly, but was obviously woozy as he went down the tunnel to the dressing room. Bollig on Saturday was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding.
"Just need to be ready when my number is called, like I've been saying all year," Prosser said. "It's an exciting time of year right now, we had some emotional wins, I just want to come back and do what I can to help the team stay successful."