Todd Richards admitted how much it meant to beat his former team earlier this week. He's got another chance to deal the Minnesota Wild a damaging blow to their postseason hopes.
The former Wild coach will return Saturday night to Minnesota for the first time since taking over as interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After enjoying one of the NHL's better records through the early part of the season, Minnesota (25-21-8) has lost three straight as part of a 4-9-2 stretch to fall out of playoff position. The struggles have left first-year coach Mike Yeo searching for answers.
"We flat-out stink the last two months. We stink," Yeo said after Thursday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver. "We come in and we don't have a good enough effort from too many guys. That's concerning.
"I'm concerned about the fact that we come into games and we don't have enough guys when we should have absolute desperation in our game playing against a team like this. We have too many guys not ready to pay the price.''
Yeo was hired to replace Richards, who went 77-71-16 with the Wild from 2009-11 before being fired last April. Richards became an assistant with Columbus (15-33-6) before he replaced the fired Scott Arniel on Jan. 9.
The Wild posted two 4-2 victories over Arniel's Blue Jackets this season before Tuesday's 3-1 road loss with Richards in charge.
"My message to them was I will sleep pretty good tonight and enjoy this one,'' Richards said after the victory. "I told the coaches before that I think this (one) I was a little more anxious before and I think it was all day too, it wasn't just before the game."
The Blue Jackets have been playing better under Richards, although they missed a chance for their first three-game win streak with Thursday's 4-2 home loss to Dallas. Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal had power-play goals.
"We're giving ourselves a chance to win now," Nash said. "It seems like we're following our systems a lot better and we're working a lot harder at the game plan."
Columbus defenseman Marc Methot, though, suffered a broken jaw in the first period and could miss the rest of the season.
"I don't know if he will be back, I don't know," Richards said. "I don't think he will, but don't hold me to that."
The Jackets at least got a bit of good news prior to Saturday's game when they activated defenseman James Wisniewski from injured reserve. One of the team's big offseason acquisitions, Wisniewski - who has two goals and 15 assists - missed the past 17 games with a broken ankle.
The Wild welcomed back Mikko Koivu for Thursday's opener of a four-game homestand after he missed the previous eight games with a shoulder injury. Dany Heatley scored the fastest goal in franchise history 13 seconds into the contest.
Koivu and Heatley's linemate, Devin Setoguchi, added a rare power-play goal. Minnesota's 10.0 percent conversion rate with the man advantage since Dec. 14 is the Western Conference's worst.
"We need to figure it out somehow, whether it's putting more pucks to the net and shooting a lot more and trying to create traffic," center Kyle Brodziak said. "I think we just need to get back to scoring some dirtier goals and hopefully our confidence will come from there."
The Wild are 12-2-2 in their last 16 at home against the Blue Jackets, who are 0 for 16 on the power play in their last seven visits.
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Minnesota Wild
- Todd Richards