Minnesota's 'awful on the road'

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The power play was clicking, the offence was scoring, the patented team defence wasn't giving up a thing, and the Minnesota Wild were off to a blistering 10-2 start.

Life was good.

"At the start of the season the guys were making plays, I was overwhelmed with all the plays they were making, and the offence that we had,'' smiled head coach Jacques Lemaire, holding court at Rexall Place yesterday. "We'd get a power play, the puck was in the net. Guys were moving.

"I said 'is it going to be like this all year?'

"I guess not.''

All good things come to an end and those heady days of October came to a crashing halt in a hurry.

Marian Gaborik got hurt. Pavol Demitra got hurt. Manny Fernandez wobbled a little and the Wild went 3-9-2 over their 14.

A three-game win streak in early December helped the cause, then they hit the road, where they are 4-9-1 this year and were promptly rolled up by Calgary. Tonight it's Rexall Place, where the Oilers are 11-4-1.

"We've been very good at home, awful on the road,'' said Brian Rolston. "There has to be a time here where we start winning games on the road, you can't be a playoff contender, or make the playoffs if you're not at least .500 on the road. That's something that has to change for us.

"If we can get one win on the road we have enough veteran guys in here that we'll expect to win in the road.''

One place where the Wild almost always feel at home is overtime and the shootout, where they are a tidy 10-2 this season.

Fernandez, 6-0 in shootouts this year, says the bonus points are nice, but he would rather they didn't always leave things till the last minute.

"We feel if we can make it there we have a pretty good chance of getting the extra point, but you don't want to take it for granted,'' he said. "It would be nice to win a game in regulation once in a while.''

Take away even half of those 10 bonus points and the Wild are well below the playoff cutline.

"We'd probably be in trouble if we didn't have them,'' said Rolston, who tries not to dwell on Northwest Division standings where four points separate first and last. "If you start looking at that you drive yourself nuts.''


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