The Minnesota Wild takes on the always scrappy Jets tonight in the ‘Peg.
With a non-shootout win, the Wild can all but guarantee itself a punched ticket to the dance as the Phoenix Coyotes would then be forced to win all four of their remaining games in regulation or overtime to force a goals scored category tie breaker. Three points guarantees Minnesota a playoff berth, four locks up the first wild card spot. The Wild has four remaining games against the Jets, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. All Minnesota needs is a 1-2-1 record–2-2-0 if it’s lucky–and the club will be playoff-bound for the second time in as many seasons.
The interesting question is which team will it face when the club finally reaches the postseason? As of right now, it looks like the Anaheim Ducks. However, the San Jose Sharks smell blood and the Ducks have stumbled recently. In addition, the Blues are only three points up on Anaheim and four on San Jose. I think most Wild fans would agree that the Ducks or even the Sharks would be much better matchups for Minnesota than St. Louis–a team the club just can’t seem to buy a win against.
It’s a tough line to walk. You don’t want to cheer for St. Louis, but you want them to win in order to avoid a four-and-done first round exit. The Ducks look ripe for the picking, but Wild fans hope they can straddle the line of playing too poorly for the top seed in the West and too good for second seed in the Pacific. Should Minnesota clinch and the Ducks improve to the point of overtaking St. Louis, do you intentionally play poorly? I shouldn’t say poorly so much as it might be a good time to rest up some key guys while letting goalie John Curry get a start and Christian Folin make his NHL debut.
As ridiculous as it is to think about, if Anaheim gets the upper hand on St. Louis in the standings, Minnesota may be facing a must-lose situation coming into the season finale against the Nashville Predators on Sunday. The Wild certainly wouldn’t throw the game, but it would be a great opportunity for the stars to rest and the youngsters and fringe roster players to receive some quality ice time. If it results in a more even first round playing field, so be it.
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