|Date||Wednesday, Jan. 22|
|Time||8:00 p.m. ET|
|How to watch||NBCS|
|Red Wings vs. Wild odds||Wild -1.5, 6 over/under|
The Minnesota Wild have a tremendous opportunity to go into the All-Star break strong as they take on the struggling Detroit Red Wings.
Over the course of a season, some losses hurt worse than others.
Sometimes the disappointment is greater because of the timing of a defeat, or the caliber of opposition — especially when it happens against a cellar dweller — or the manner the game is lost that causes the sting.
The Wild’s 5-4 home defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Monday, in which the winning goal was scored with six seconds remaining, falls in that last category.
“That one hurts,” Luke Kunin said. “It feels kind of like we just gave it away. … We’re at the point where we have to start winning, put together a string here. No one in this locker room likes to lose, so this one hurts.”
The quest will be for the Wild to regroup when they play host to the last-place Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Certainly, a clash with the Red Wings is a golden chance to rebound. The Red Wings, who lost a 6-3 road game to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, have lost four straight and boast just three wins in 16 games (3-12-1) and five victories in 30 outings (5-22-3).
The betting odds reflect those struggles. At -305, the Wild are a resounding favorite at DraftKings, compared to the +250 for the Red Wings on the Moneyline. The over-under is set at an even 6.
In the immediate aftermath of the Florida loss, though, the Wild were stunned. Then again, it was a crazy defeat for myriad reasons. Minnesota not only erased a trio of one-goal deficits, but actually held a 4-3 lead with five minutes remaining in regulation only to blow it. To top it off, Noel Acciari’s game-winning goal was a deflection that came while he was tied up with a defender.
Instead of extending a modest winning streak and potentially going into the All-Star break on a big roll, they’re a team sitting seven points out of a playoff spot with a 2-4-1 record in their last seven games, and knowing time will start running out on their playoff hopes.
“From getting ourselves back into the driver's seat and feeling like a few more shifts and we had to close it out to not getting a point out of it, that's a tough one right now where we are,” said forward Zach Parise, who has scored five times in a four-game stretch, didn’t mask his disappointment.
“We needed the win. That's the only thing we should be looking for right now, is how can we get wins. And it didn't happen.”
Minnesota, which will turn to number-one goaltender Devan Dubnyk, will receive a boost for the game, too. Captain Mikko Koivu is expected tor return after missing the last couple of games due to the flu.
While the Wild can still talk about playoff hopes, the Red Wings are nearing rock bottom in their rebuild. Technically, they are not eliminated from contention, but with only 28 points through 50 games, the Red Wings are on pace for the worst season since the league brought in the salary cap in 2005-06.
Such a dismal campaign creates a battle for the team.
“Losses wear on you, and it starts to hurt your energy a little bit,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to be real careful of that right now. We have to find a way to have great energy in our last game before the break and get ourselves rejuvenated coming back out of the break.”
To keep spirits up, Detroit will be looking for positives, and there are a few beyond Tyler Bertuzzi being named to the All-Star game. One is the play of Dylan Larkin, who has collected five goals and eight assists in his last 12 games and been noticeably better since the holiday break.
“It’s confidence. In this league, when you don’t have it and you’re afraid to have the puck on your stick, it’s not a fun league to play in with the way the guys can skate and the big guys. I think it came back to wanting the puck on my stick and moving my feet,” Larkin said.
Another is the emergence of rookie forward Givani Smith, a 2016 second-round draft choice who is learning how to use his abilities at the NHL level.
“We need guys to develop and to step in and start to learn their craft,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard. “G’s done a good job of stepping in and being that power forward type of player. Getting in there, banging on the forecheck, just going to the net.”
Speaking of Howard, he appears to to be rounding into form, which could benefit the Red Wings on the trade market. A pending unrestricted free-agent, Howard is potential trade bait, even though he sports a 0-13-2 record in his last 15 starts.
“He's been really good the last three games, he looks like he’s on top of his game,” Blashill said.
The Red Wings are potentially needing a couple of changes for this game, with defenseman Mike Green and forward Frans Nielsen leaving the Colorado clash due to injury.
Center Christoffer Ehn and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson could replace them.