Back in October, anyone with a playoff-focused mind would've looked at the Minnesota Wild's schedule and grimaced to see five of the final eight regular season games were on the road.
The Wild flat out stink on home ice, so five road games feels like a gift from the hockey gods as Minnesota continues its fight to sneak into the postseason as the second wild card in the Western Conference.
Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche stings because a win would've pushed the Wild one point ahead of Arizona for the last wild card spot. Instead, the Wild (77 points) remain a point behind Arizona (78 points) while Colorado (76 points) is right behind the Wild.
More deflating is that Arizona and Colorado have a game in hand on Minnesota, so the Wild basically have eight games to out-point whatever the Coyotes and Avalanche do in nine games.
Xcel Energy Center has opened its doors to the Wild 22 times since Dec. 15. Minnesota has won just five times with 17 losses (five of them in overtime). The last two homestands have been particularly painful, with the team going 1-6-2 and gaining three of a possible 18 points.
"We've said this on maybe the last three homestands that we've had," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It's very unfortunate that we haven't had the success at home this year that this team has had every year almost in its existence."
Fun fact: Minnesota, dating back to its inaugural season in 2000-01, has never had a losing record at home. They went 15-12-4-10 at home (back when they had ties and OT losses) in their first year and went 14-14-6-8 in year two, but ever since they've been above .500 each season.
All but two of the eight teams in the Western Conference playoff picture are at least 10 games over .500 on home ice. The exceptions are St. Louis (18-5-2) and Arizona (18-5-4).
Fortunately, Minnesota owns the fifth-best road record in the West, and they'll need that reputation more than ever when they play back-to-back Friday and Saturday against the defending champion Washington Capitals and the surging Carolina Hurricanes, who are 17-5-1 since Jan. 22.