NHL on NBCSN: Wild slowly turning around rough start to season

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There’s still work to do for Bruce Boudreau and his staff, but after miserable start to the season the Wild has slowly been turning things around.

The Wild headed into the Christmas break winning two for their last three. Their overall picture since U.S. Thanksgiving has been much more promising since what happened in October and early November. As they head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche Friday night, Minnesota sits two points out of a wild card spot. The season began with four wins in their opening 13 games, but since late last month they’ve earned 32 points out of a possible 48, going 14-6-4 over that stretch.

The turnaround has taken place while Devan Dubnyk was away from team to be with his wife Jenn, who’s been dealing with a serious medical issue. Dubnyk missed 15 games and returned Dec. 19 for the wild 8-5 win over the Coyotes. He was back starting Monday night and stopped all 22 shots to shut out the Flames.

[COVERAGE OF AVS-WILD BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

“If somebody asked us at that point if we could be two points out of a playoff spot before Christmas, I don’t even know if everybody would have believed that,” Dubnyk said. “This is a lot more like it, and we know if we continue this pace and continue to play like this, we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Despite Dubnyk’s confidence, there are areas to clean up if the playoffs are to be a reality. Over the last month the penalty kill has struggled (66.6%), their possession numbers are near the bottom (47%) and the Wild owns the NHL’s best PDO (104.2), via Natural Stat Trick.

What’s been working has been the offense, which has averaged 3.64 goals per game with Eric Staal (7-7–14) and Mats Zuccarello (5-6–11) leading the way. Then you have Kevin Fiala, who has 13 points in his last 16 games and Ryan Donato with six points in nine games.

“I think we’re in a pretty good spot looking back at where we were,” said forward Luke Kunin. “Obviously, we let a few slip away that we wish would’ve won. Just get a good break and come back rejuvenated and ready to go.”

Kathryn Tappen will host Friday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Episode 2 of the three-part docuseries “Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN. 

The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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