The Minnesota Wild’s extended holiday break this week doesn’t just give the team a chance to get away from the rink and spend quality time with their families.
“It’s time to reflect, not on the first half of the season, but what we’ve done so far,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said after a team practice on Tuesday. “We should have been proud of what we’ve done. We’re high up in the standings for a reason.
“Although we’ve gone on a little bit of a slide, we had a really good stretch there,” Foligno said. “Just trying to get back to what we did in that eight-game (winning) streak. Confidence is still high in this group, no doubt about that, but you’ve got to take these breaks mentally and just try and get refreshed. You’ll see a really excited group come back here after Christmas. ”
The Wild are scheduled to travel to Winnipeg on Dec. 27 or a matchup with the Jets which would be their first game since a 7-4 loss in Dallas this past Monday. Minnesota is winless in its past four games but sit in first place in the Central Division and are tied with the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks with a Western Conference-best 40 points.
Minnesota also entered last week without defenseman Jared Spurgeon and forward Jordan Greenway and lost center Joel Eriksson Ek to an upper-body injury in the second period of the Stars game.
Wild coach Dean Evason said the break — extended due to the NHL’s shutdown through the weekend due to rising COVID-19 numbers — gives players an opportunity to unplug from the wear-and-tear of the grind of the NHL season schedule to this point.
“I think everybody will and should,” Evason said. “Get away, recharge physically and mentally. Hopefully everbody uses (the break) correctly and we can come back ready to go.
“We haven’t played poorly but we haven’t played as well as we did at the start of the year,” Evason said. “We have to get back to playing our game. After analyzing (Monday’s game) there’s a lot of things that the Dallas Stars did really well as opposed to us not doing well. There’s a little bit of a combination, so we’ve got to get back to our identity, who we are. Hopefully we get healthy , get our four lines back together again and be able to roll.”
The Wild are a week out from a Winter Classic matchup with the St. Louis Blues on New Year’s Day — which hopefully will be the first of national spotlight games and events for the Wild, given the potential the team has shown so far.
“Obviously we’re really looking forward to the Winter Classic and putting on a show there,” Foligno said. “We’re just excited about our group. We know what we have to offer and what we can do with this group.
“We’ve got some guys injured right now but we’re just excited to keep moving forward and becoming a top-tier team,” Foligno said. “That’s what we expect out of ourselves,”