The Minnesota Wild started a five-game road trip with their worst loss of the season. A matchup in Columbus may make it tough for them to bounce back.
Losers of two straight, the Wild look to win at Nationwide Arena for the first time in nearly eight years when they continue their road swing on Saturday night against the Blue Jackets.
Minnesota (15-11-2) had won four straight before its current slump, which included a 5-0 loss to NHL-leading Detroit on Friday. It is the Wild’s largest margin of defeat this season.
Now, Minnesota will head to Columbus, where it has lost eight straight since a 3-1 victory on Jan. 18, 2002. The Blue Jackets (13-10-5) have been tough at home this season, going 8-3-3.
These teams have split two games this season, both in Minnesota. The Wild, though, were shut out 4-0 by the Blue Jackets on Nov. 23 in the teams’ last meeting, and have scored just one goal in their last two games overall.
Minnesota was blanked for the second time this season Friday. Wild forward Mark Parrish returned after missing three games with a hip injury, but he hasn’t found the back of the net since Nov. 15 against Edmonton.
Meanwhile, Marian Gaborik - who leads Minnesota with 10 goals and 22 points - was held off the scoresheet for the first time in six games. The franchise scoring leader has only one goal and one assist in eight road games against the Blue Jackets.
The Wild will also be trying to rebound from one of their worst defensive games of the season. It was the fourth time they have surrendered five goals or more. Backup goaltender Josh Harding has never faced Columbus, and isn’t likely to get a chance Saturday after struggling against the Red Wings.
“We had a couple of bad breaks,” said Harding, who has given up nine goals in his last two starts.
That means Niklas Backstrom will be back in net, but he has been underwhelming in three starts against the Blue Jackets, going 1-1-0 with a 3.43 goals-against average.
Columbus also just had its second-best scoring game of the season, as Dan Fritsche’s goal with 4:05 left capped a wild six-goal third period in a 5-4 comeback victory over the Colorado on Wednesday night.
The Blue Jackets’ highest-scoring game of the season was a 7-4 win over Chicago on Oct. 23. Wednesday’s flurry helped them beat the Avalanche for just the third time in 25 meetings.
“We’ve got to play off the momentum we had in the third,” said Columbus forward Rick Nash, who scored twice to give him 18 goals this season. “If we can play three periods that way, we could be a pretty good team.”
Nash scored for the first time since a five-game goal-scoring streak from Nov. 14-23. The first overall pick in the 2002 draft tops the Blue Jackets with 31 points.