|The Wild are about to head to the vicious West Coast. Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images|
With those three names out for an extended period of time, January was not supposed to be pleasant for the Wild. But since the calendar flipped from 2013 to 2014, the team has won seven out of nine games and have created a nice little cushion for themselves in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Again, all of that was done with out the aforementioned players.
But now as we get into the last half of January, the Wild are set to play a grueling stretch of hockey that is not easy on the eyes. They play four out of the last five games this month away from the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center. And to make things even more difficult, the last four games come against teams who have are least eight points up on the Wild.in the Western standings.
Tomorrow's game is in Dallas, a team the Wild have beaten in both meetings this year, is far from a lock. The team's history of playing in Dallas is not anyone will be bragging about for a while (4-14-6 all time record at Dallas). After Dallas, they return home for a matchup with Chicago (2nd best record in the NHL) then head out to Anaheim (best record in the league) and San Jose (fourth in West) before finishing up with Colorado (eight points ahead of Minnesota in the standings).
The good news is, it appears Zach Parise could be back by the time the Wild and Blackhawks hit the ice. Bad news is, he appears to be the only one close to returning from injury. Which means the Wild will be going through this daunting schedule with the same team they have been playing with for the past three weeks.
True, they have won seven out of nine, but the team has been badly outplayed in most of these games. Eventually, that bad run of play will catch up with you. Very good chance that happens over the next five games if the Wild do not start possessing the puck better. Those teams will eat you up (for those thinking about the game in Los Angeles two weeks ago, that was more luck).
It has been nice to see the team take charge after losing such key players. But there is a very good chance that they are brought back down to earth in the next 10 days. If they can win three out of these next five games, it would be nothing short of a miracle. They are playing far superior hockey teams, folks.
If they have anything going for them into these games, its the fact they still find a way to win games. Not a bad thing to have on your side right now either.