NHL Hockey

Improving Wild take on skidding Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild have something in common entering their matchup on Saturday in Saint Paul, Minn.: Both are coming off games against the Winnipeg Jets.

Minnesota earned a 3-2 home win against Winnipeg on Thursday, and the Jets topped the Red Wings 4-2 on Friday in Winnipeg.

Those results are indicative of their teams' recent form.

After losing six of seven games, the Wild have gotten back on track by winning five of their past seven games, including four of the past five.

The Red Wings have lost three in a row, nine of 10 (1-7-2) and 13 of 15 (2-10-3).

In the Wild's hot stretch, Minnesota has beaten three teams with winning records -- Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg twice.

"For this team, when we're winning, it seems like a different person doing something every night," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The Wild already are scrapping for a playoff spot. They are one point ahead of the Ducks for the second and final Western Conference wild-card spot, but two other teams are just one point behind Anaheim.

"It's up to us to keep it going," Boudreau said. "We had such a bad six weeks that it can never be something you get satisfied with.

"There are so many teams involved in a playoff race. It's not just two or three. Every night, you are looking at eight teams in the Western Conference involved for those (wild-card) spots. You can't let up at all. It's going to be like that for the rest of the year, I think."

One reason why Minnesota is in the playoff race is the strength of its special teams.

The Wild are 11th in the league on the power play, converting on 21.8 percent of their chances, and they are fifth in the league in penalty-kill percentage at 84.3 percent.

On the other side, Detroit sits much closer to the draft lottery than to a playoff spot.

With the loss to Winnipeg, Detroit fell into a tie for last place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, each with 39 points. Only two teams in the league, the Los Angeles Kings (37 points) and the Philadelphia Flyers (38 points), are in worse shape than the Red Wings.

"We just have to stick with it," Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader said following the defeat against the Jets. "Just continue to make sure the details in our game are great on a nightly basis. Continue to get pucks around the net and obviously you will see some of the bounces. We just have to continue to shoot pucks."

The big problem for Detroit all season has been offense.

The Red Wings are 24th in the league in scoring at 2.74 goals per game and are 20th in the league in power-play percentage at 17.3 percent.

This will be the first of two meetings between the teams during the regular season. The rematch will be on Feb. 22 in Detroit.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 12, 2019

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