ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild are on the verge of clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight year and could wrap up the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference as early as Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.
One win or post-regulation loss in any of their final three games would get the job done. So would one regulation or post-regulation loss by the Phoenix Coyotes. Even a post-regulation win by the Coyotes would get it done.
Minnesota's magic number to clinch a berth is one point, so the number of clinching scenarios are plentiful. But coach Mike Yeo said he'd prefer to keep it as simple as possible: Win tonight against the NHL's best team and the Wild not only clinch a playoff spot, they lock in the top wild-card position.
"Hopefully the experience of last year has helped us, and I think it has," Yeo said. "We just need to concentrate on the game. That's just another one of those end results."
Last season, Minnesota needed a win on the final day of the regular season to clinch a spot in the playoffs. This time around, the Wild have played well down the stretch (4-0-1 in their past five) to give themselves a bit of breathing room.
Yeo said Minnesota has work to do to find its best game heading into the playoffs. That begins against Boston, which defeated the Wild 4-1 last month at TD Bank Garden.
"There's a process we have to go about, there's a way we have to do it," Yeo said. "That'll be there (clinching a playoff spot) if we do it."
Boston coach Claude Julien said the Bruins will be without forward Jarome Iginla and defenseman Kevan Miller. Iginla is the all-time leader against the Wild in points (67), goals (37) and shots (236) from his time with the Calgary Flames. He has 30 assists in 71 games against Minnesota in his career. Each will be fine for the playoffs, but with the top-seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, Julien has the luxury of resting some of his players.
Here are the projected lineups: