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Minnesota Wild could use another 12-game winning streak

Minnesota Wild right wing Chris Stewart (10) shoots the puck during the second period Dec. 2 against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center. Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — This time last season the Wild were a middling team in the Central Division — 12-8-4 on Dec. 5, 2016 — when they started an epic 12-game winning streak that changed the course of the season.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 5, exactly 365 days later, the Wild were in pretty much the very same spot, 13-10-3 heading into a matchup with the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.

And while that doesn't mean the Wild are about to go on another unprecedented run, it's a reminder that fortune can turn quickly, even if they have underwhelmed over the first two months of the season.

"It'd be a good time for it," Eric Staal said with a laugh. "That definitely put us in a good spot. You have to believe that it can be done again."

"We have very similar personnel, so we're definitely capable of it," Chris Stewart added. "We have to look at ourselves. It starts tonight. We are playing one of the best teams in the NHL at home and it could be a good building block in the right direction."

Still, coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't want his team thinking too much about the past. "We can't draw on it right now because it's two different teams." he said. "We have to live in the moment."

Staal is hopeful this week's three-game West Coast swing with games against the Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks can have the Wild feeling like a different team when they return to the Twin Cities next week.

"It'd be nice to string a few wins together," he said. "It just comes down to confidence in knowing that we're doing the right things, and if we're getting those results, then I think guys start to believe in it more and more every day. It can kind of snowball from there."

The Wild's biggest problem has been a lack of consistency. Their longest win streak is four games, highlighted by back-to-back shutouts.

"We're still working at being consistent," Staal said. "Not every night is going to be perfect over the course of an 82-game season. There's going to be nights when one line catches lightning in a bottle. There's going to be nights when the goalie is really good. There's going to be nights when some of the other guys in the lineup step up. Those are the things that make a good team. We're still a work in progress as far as that goes. That said, there's definitely ingredients in here to make that happen."

Stewart, meanwhile, wrote off the notion that the Wild are essentially the same team they've always been, good enough to make the playoffs, not good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

"That's motivation for us," Stewart said of the critics. "We don't really worry about anyone outside of this dressing room. We know what we're capable of, and we need this to be a good road trip for us. It can one way or the other."

With the Wild tied for fifth in the Central Division, their sense of urgency is heightened right now, especially with Winnipeg, St. Louis and Nashville starting to pull away from the pack.

"All the good teams find a way to go on a run," Staal said. "We want to be one of those teams, so we're going to have to find a way to do that."

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