The Minnesota Wild didn’t look like a playoff-caliber team in their last contest. A visit to Columbus could help them get back on track.
After their three-game winning streak was snapped, the Wild look to bounce back with a third consecutive victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday night.
Clinging to hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007-08, Minnesota (34-30-6) didn’t help its cause by losing 5-0 at Nashville on Thursday. The Wild are 11th in the Western Conference, six points out of the final playoff spot held by Detroit.
“We weren’t that good (Thursday),” Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding(notes) said. “The great thing about hockey is that we can forget about this one and get ready for tomorrow. I think we all know we need to be better.”
“We generated a couple of good opportunities, but we weren’t able to score,” said Minnesota coach Todd Richards, whose team was held to eight shots on goal over the final two periods.
The Wild had little trouble scoring in a 4-2 home win over Columbus (28-31-11) in the most recent meeting Jan. 23. Mikko Koivu(notes) had a pair of goals in that contest, and also has three assists in three games versus the Blue Jackets this season.
With Niklas Backstrom(notes) still day-to-day with a groin injury, Harding could be back in net despite his poor effort against the Predators. Harding stopped 22 of 26 shots over the first two periods before getting pulled for Wade Dubielewicz(notes).
Harding, who had his three-game winning streak snapped, is 1-1-0 with a 3.52 goals-against average in his career versus Columbus and has yet to face the Blue Jackets this season.
Columbus is 13 points behind the Red Wings with 12 games to play, and appears headed out of playoff contention after reaching the postseason for the first time in 2008-09.
The Blue Jackets, though, are putting together a late surge. They’ve won three of four after beating Edmonton 5-3 on Monday.
“At the end of the day, you want to win. It’s a different situation, I won’t lie,” said forward Antoine Vermette(notes), who had an empty-net goal with two assists. “It’s a tough situation to be in - your first time facing that challenge, not being in the playoff. It’s not fun.”
Kristian Huselius(notes) had a goal with three assists for Columbus, which broke out after scoring three times in its previous two contests. Huselius has two goals with four assists in his last two games, but has been held without a point against the Wild this season.
Columbus’ Mathieu Garon(notes) is expected to be in goal looking for a third straight victory after stopping 64 of 67 shots in his previous two starts. Garon, 5-3-1 with a 2.73 GAA versus Minnesota, is 5-0-3 with a 1.88 GAA at home this season