The Minnesota Wild have lost five straight on the road, and they'll need a better performance on the rest of their trip if they hope to remain close in the Western Conference playoff race.
Earning a victory at their next destination suddenly doesn't look so simple.
One night after a loss in Manhattan to open their five-game trek, the Wild will cross the East River for Wednesday night's matchup with the New York Islanders, who are now winning consistently at Nassau Coliseum despite still residing at the bottom of the NHL standings.
The Wild remain within striking distance of a third straight postseason berth, but a road-heavy schedule down the stretch has plagued coach Jacques Lemaire's club, which is 2-7-2 away from home over the past month -- having played three home games over that span.
The tough stretch has dropped Minnesota (34-31-8) to 11th place in the West with nine games to play, and two points behind Anaheim and Nashville for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"Everyone has to step up their game and pull as a team," right wing Marian Gaborik said. "We need to challenge each other and just go out there and give everything. Responsibility and pressure come with it. That's the way it goes."
The current stretch of road games continues this weekend with trips to Calgary and Edmonton, but first the Wild will try to salvage a win from the two-game New York leg. They lost 2-1 to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
While Gaborik scored a goal in his second game back from a three-month absence, Minnesota's offense continued to struggle. The unit is averaging 2.0 goals in its last 11 road games.
"(Goalie Niklas) Backstrom played good, our defensemen played really well, but we lack the scoring," Lemaire said Tuesday. "You can see it."
Part of the problem has been the absence of Gaborik, who has played in only eight games during a season largely spent recovering from hip surgery.
On Tuesday, Gaborik increased his ice time to 20:52, took a team-high five shots and scored for the first time since Dec. 23.
"I feel pretty good for the second game. Hopefully I can get much better," he said.
The Islanders (24-40-8) have shown plenty of improvement -- especially at home -- as their dismal season's end draws nearer.
Although they closed a 2-3-1 road trip with consecutive losses, including a 5-2 defeat at Ottawa on Saturday night, they're 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games and 5-1-1 in their last seven at the Coliseum.
A number of young players are contributing with 20-year-old right wing Kyle Okposo leading the way, having scored at least a point in a career-best eight straight games. The St. Paul, Minn., native has five goals and five assists over that span.
Rookie center Josh Bailey had his first career multi-goal game Saturday, tallying both of the Islanders' goals in Ottawa.
"If you have a good night it makes it a lot sweeter if it's a W," Bailey said. "As far as myself, it was only a good third period. My first two periods were off big time and I think that goes along with the rest of the team, too."
This is Minnesota's first visit to Long Island since Dec. 13, 2005, when Gaborik scored twice in the Wild's 4-3 win.