After breaking out of a scoring slump in a big way, the Minnesota Wild hope the offensive momentum will carry over when they visit the Florida Panthers on Friday in the third stop of a four-game road trip. The Wild had scored seven goals in four games before erupting for five unanswered tallies in a 6-4 victory at Ottawa on Tuesday.
“I was happy that some guys that haven’t been having much luck scored some goals and got points,” coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team ended a two-game slide. “It’s always nice when they can gain some confidence by doing that.” Minnesota has fattened its stats against Florida, scoring 15 goals while winning the past three matchups, including a 7-4 win in its last visit to the Panthers. The Wild face another struggling offense in Florida, which halted a three-game skid with a 3-2 win at Arizona on Tuesday. The win capped a 2-2-1 road trip for the Panthers and marked the first time they scored more than two goals on the five-game trek.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE WILD (18-13-3): No player had been mired in a deeper scoring drought than captain Mikko Koivu, who had gone 24 games without a goal and 11 without a point before netting the tying tally in the comeback win at Ottawa. “Mikko’s goal, you could see the air coming out of a balloon,” Boudreau said. “We’ve talked about it, but it gets tough. You start to put pressure on yourself because you expect more, so I’m hoping this is a jump-start for him.” Eric Staal has four goals and four assists in the last six games.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (13-16-5): Making his seventh consecutive start due to an injury to No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo, James Reimer earned praise from his coach following a 39-save performance against the Coyotes — his fifth straight start yielding three goals or fewer. “Reimer is playing so good right now,” coach Bob Boughner said. “If you make the odd mistake, he is coming up with the save.” Defenseman Mike Matheson scored his first three goals of the season on the road trip, two of them game-winners.
1. Wild G Devan Dubnyk practiced briefly Thursday for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 12.
2. Florida has killed off 20 straight penalties over the past six games.
3. Staal has 20 goals and 50 points in 68 games versus the Panthers.
PREDICTION: Wild 4, Panthers 3