The positive early returns the Minnesota Wild were hoping for when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long-term contracts could come Friday night in the form of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Wild will clinch their first trip to the postseason since 2008 with a win over the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.
However, if the Oilers play well enough to stop their own three-game losing streak, then there is still the possibility that the Wild miss the playoffs, giving way instead to the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets.
DRIVE TO THE PLAYOFFS
Minnesota, Detroit and Columbus are all alive for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Wild and Red Wings control their own destiny, while the Blue Jackets need points and some help.
If Minnesota collects two points over its last two games and Detroit gets at least one in its final game Saturday against the Dallas Stars, both would clinch a playoff berth and knock the Blue Jackets out of contention.
It's also possible that Columbus knocks itself out with a regulation loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday, rendering the remaining games for both the Wild and Red Wings meaningless.
However, if the Blue Jackets beat the Predators and the Red Wings lose to Dallas in regulation, Columbus will clinch and Detroit would either be eliminated or need help depending on the outcome of the Oilers-Wild game on Friday.
The Wild also play the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in Denver.
If Minnesota beats both the Oilers and Avalanche it could finish as high as sixth in the Western Conference, but that would depend on the outcome of the game between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks on Saturday. The Wild can still finish higher than the Sharks.
Columbus will know after the Wild play the Oilers on Friday if it needs to win to stay alive or if one point against the Predators will give the Blue Jackets a chance. If the Wild lose in regulation to both the Oilers and Avalanche, the Blue Jackets would need one point to get in.
The Wild, though, control the cards Friday night. A win and they're in, leaving one spot available for either the Red Wings or the Blue Jackets.
A loss and it will all be decided Saturday night.