No longer satisfied with simply winning, the Minnesota Wild expect to be at their best every time they take the ice.
The surging Wild look for a more complete effort and second consecutive victory when they visit the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Marek Zidlicky scored in the final minute of regulation and Mikko Koivu added two assists in Minnesota's 2-1 victory over Columbus on Tuesday. Though the Wild (16-14-3) have won three of four and are 9-2-1 since losing four in a row, they feel they can play better, especially after failing to take advantage on a flurry of chances early in their latest contest.
"We need to find a way to play great hockey for 60 minutes," said Niklas Backstrom after making 21 saves Tuesday. "We want to be a team that plays every night, plays their best hockey 60 minutes. We're happy with the points, but not the whole 60 minutes."
Minnesota has a new focus after rebounding from a 1-6 start, but is still in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings. The Wild will look for that elusive total effort when they open a brief eastern Canadian road swing to Montreal and Ottawa.
The Wild have a chance to continue their recent success while facing the Canadiens (15-17-3), who look to avoid matching a season high with their fifth consecutive loss.
Minnesota is 3-3-1 with a tie all-time versus Montreal, which has won the last two in the series. The Wild lost 2-1 at home on Oct. 30, 2008, and 4-2 in their last visit to Montreal on Nov. 22, 2006.
Koivu snapped a four-game scoreless streak Tuesday and leads the team with 23 assists and 32 points. The brother of former Canadien Saku Koivu, Minnesota's Koivu has been held without a point in three games versus Montreal.
Martin Havlat added an assist against Columbus, giving him two goals and four assists in his last three games. He has six and nine assists in 21 career games versus the Canadiens.
Backstrom is 14-10-3 with a 2.44 goals-against average on the season and has allowed two goals on 67 shots while winning his last three starts. He made 31 saves during the 2006 loss in his only appearance against the Canadiens.
Travis Moen scored an unassisted, short-handed goal in Montreal's 2-1 loss at New Jersey on Wednesday. The Canadiens have lost four in a row, all by one goal. They dropped five straight from Oct. 6-17.
"We've got to keep improving," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said.
Carey Price made 25 saves, but lost his third in a row while falling to 9-12-3 with a 2.73 GAA. Though Price made 28 saves last season in his only previous appearance against Minnesota, backup Jaroslav Halak could be in net.
Halak, who's never faced the Wild, is 6-5-0 with a 2.91 GAA this season.
Montreal's Michael Cammalleri was held scoreless Wednesday after scoring six of his team-leading 18 goals in his previous six games. He has five goals and five assists in his career against Minnesota.
This will be the first game for Minnesota forward Guillaume Latendresse against his former team. Acquired from Montreal on Nov. 23, Latendresse has three goals and one assist in 10 games with the Wild.