The Minnesota Wild were one of the NHL's hottest teams at the end of last month, but they'll aim for their first victory in April when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets for Sunday's clash at Nationwide Arena.
Minnesota went 11-4-0 overall in March and closed the month with wins in seven of eight games. However, the Wild have lost all three of their games in April in regulation and have fallen four points behind Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.
The Wild are still sitting sixth out of eight playoff spots in the West, but they are only two points clear of the eighth-seeded St. Louis Blues. Columbus is three points behind the Blues in a tie for 10th place.
Minnesota has scored a total of three goals during its current slide and the club was shut out Thursday in Los Angeles, as the Kings notched a 3-0 win at the Staples Center.
Niklas Backstrom started between the pipes for Minnesota, but allowed the only two shots he faced to find the back of the net before being removed in favor of Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 11-of-12 shots in relief.
"They got some early breaks and then it ended up costing us," Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter stated. "We played well after that, but we have to learn from this."
Forward Jason Pominville made his Wild debut on Thursday after coming over in a trade with Buffalo at Wednesday's deadline. Pominville, who had 10 goals and 25 assists in 37 games with the Sabres this season, failed to reach the scoresheet in nearly 19 minutes of ice time against the Kings.
The Wild also played their last game without winger Dany Heatley, who sustained a wrist injury in Wednesday's loss to San Jose and is expected to miss a few weeks of action. Heatley is third on the team with 11 goals this season.
Thursday's setback was Minnesota's third straight on the road and the club is just 8-10-1 away from St. Paul this season.
Columbus, which is trying to make the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, had won three straight before losing Friday's game in St. Louis. David Backes scored the game-winning goal late in the second period to help the Blues secure the 3-1 win at Scottrade Center.
Artem Anisimov provided the lone offense for the Blue Jackets, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped only 16 pucks in the setback.
"It was a tough game on the corners," said Columbus center Ryan Johansen. "It was a battle tonight. It's too bad we couldn't converge on a couple more of our chances."
Former Wild star Marian Gaborik recorded an assist in his second game with Columbus since being traded from the New York Rangers. Gaborik played his first eight NHL seasons with Minnesota and is still the club's all-time leader in goals (219) and points (437). He has one goal and one assist in his first two games with the Blue Jackets.
Columbus has won four straight on home ice and is 11-4-5 in the Buckeye State this season.
The Wild won the first meeting of the season with the Blue Jackets, posting a 3-2 regulation victory in Minnesota on Jan. 29. The Wild have claimed three of four in this series overall, but Columbus has won four of the last six encounters at Nationwide Arena.