(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild hope a road game against the Florida
Panthers can help them get back on track, as the clubs meet for Saturday's
tilt at BB&T Center.
The Wild enter Saturday with a 1-2-0 record on their four-game road trip, but
they have had tremendous success on the road against the Panthers in recent
years. Minnesota has won two straight and nine of the last 11 meetings with
the Panthers overall and has claimed five of the past six encounters in the
All told, Minnesota has outscored the Panthers by a combined 40-22 margin over
the 13 all-time meetings between the clubs.
After beginning their current swing with a 2-1 win at Buffalo, the Wild have
dropped consecutive games versus Toronto and Tampa Bay. Minnesota dropped a
3-1 decision to the Lightning on Thursday, as Steven Stamkos scored with 5:04
remaining in the third period to snap a tie game. Sami Salo added an empty-
netter to seal the win for the home team.
The Wild have lost two straight following a three-game win streak and have
mustered just four goals over their three most recent outings. Mikko Koivu
accounted for Minnesota's lone score on Thursday and Josh Harding turned back
27-of-29 shots in a losing effort.
With the contest knotted at 1-1 and the teams engaged in a 4-on-4 situation,
Tampa Bay's Matt Carle sent the puck along the right boards and Stamkos beat
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter to the disc. The star centerman then skated in
alone on Harding and placed a shot between the goaltender's pads that sent the
Lightning in front with just over five minutes to play.
"We make a mistake, and obviously you can't give a player like that an
opportunity," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said of Stamkos' breakaway goal.
The Wild could get No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom back in the crease
tonight for the first time since Oct. 8. Backstrom was sidelined for four
games with a knee injury before suiting up as the backup to Harding in
Backstrom is 0-0-2 with a 3.40 goals against average in three games this
season, but he boasts a 5-0-1 mark and a 1.95 GAA in six career outings
against the Panthers.
After Saturday's contest, the Wild will play two straight and six of their
next seven games on home ice. Next up for Minnesota is Tuesday's game against
the visiting Nashville Predators.
While Minnesota is trying to avoid a third straight loss, the Panthers enter
Saturday having lost three in a row in regulation. Florida is just 1-6-0 since
beginning the 2013-14 season with a win at Dallas.
The Panthers latest setback came Thursday against Boston, as Florida
goaltender Tim Thomas faced his former team for the first time. Reilly Smith
scored on Thomas with 58.7 seconds to play to help the Bruins record a 3-2
Thomas won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy with the Bruins in 2011 while
leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup title since 1972. Thomas, a
two-time Vezina Trophy winner, played one more season with the Bruins after
that championship year before sitting out the lockout-shortened campaign. He
then became a free agent this past offseason and appeared in training camp
with the Panthers on a professional tryout before signing a one-year deal just
before the start of the season.
Trailing by a goal, Florida had tied the game at the 14-minute mark after a
left circle faceoff win saw Jesse Winchester tip in a Nick Bjugstad shot.
Boston, though, took a 3-2 lead with 58.7 seconds left as a broken play saw
the puck get through several players in front, with Smith backhanding it past
Thomas for his first goal of the season.
Florida got Thomas out of the net late, but was unable to score the equalizer.
"We lost some faceoffs in our zone and they made us pay for that," said
Florida head coach Kevin Dineen. "I liked our last 40 minutes, but the first
period might have been our worst of the year."
Winchester and Kris Versteeg had the goals for the Panthers, while Thomas
allowed all three goals on 40 shots.
Thursday's contest marked the start of a six-game homestand for Florida, which
is 1-2-0 as the host in 2013-14.
The Sports Network