CALGARY, AB -- Trying to entrench themselves in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Minnesota Wild have opened up some breathing room between themselves and the pack on the outside looking in.
In seventh with 51 points, the Wild have opened up a four-point gap over the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.
A playoff appearance is no guarantee in Minnesota, though. The slumping Wild have just three wins in their past 10 games with one of those coming at the expense of the Calgary Flames last week. Coming off a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Wild will be more than motivated on Sunday.
FLAMES SEASON SERIES RECORD: 1-1-2
The Wild opened their season series with Calgary on February 11th at Scotiabank Saddledome, eking out a 2-1 shootout victory on the strength of Mikko Koivu's shootout winner in his 500th career game.
The Flames followed up the shootout loss by taking two points away from Minnesota on home ice in a 3-1 victory on the strength of Matt Stajan's multi-goal game, including an empty netter with nine seconds remaining to close out the win on February 23rd. Just three days after the win, Calgary dropped a late, third period lead on Jason Zucker's goal with 4:19 remaining while Zach Parise scored just 27 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win.
Playing last Monday, a pair of late-game goals -- including the first of Ben Hanowski's career -- pulled the Flames to within one but Calgary couldn't complete the comeback in falling to the Wild 4-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 19
SOG: 65 | +/-: 6
Though he hasn't been the most productive at times this season, Bouchard is catching fire at just the right time for the Wild. After going six straight without finding the scoresheet, the 28-year-old former first round pick has points in four straight and has found the back of the net three times in that stretch, accounting for nearly half of his seven goals on the season. In all, Bouchard has 19 points in 39 games for Minnesota.
Center - MIN
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 34
SOG: 106 | +/-: 2
Though Minnesota's offense has sparked up with the return of Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu is still struggling to find the back of the net. The Wild captain has just one point in his past 10 games, a goal coming at the expense of Joey MacDonald and the Flames. The cold stretch comes off a streak that saw Koivu record 11 points in a seven game point scoring streak.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Missing six games with a lower body injury, Cullen has returned to kickstart the Wild's slumping offense. Though he has just one assist in three games back, Minnesota has scored 10 goals over that stretch after scoring just seven in the six games he missed. A fixture on the second line, Cullen has seven goals and 26 points in 38 games this season.
A contender for the Calder Trophy awarded to the league's top rookie, Brodin has quietly been an integral part of the Wild's defence. Paired with Ryan Suter all season, Brodin has gone up against the opposition's top lines and has fared well. The 19-year-old picked 10th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has 10 points and a plus-4 rating in 41 games this season.
On fire since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, Pominville has four goals and nine points in eight games since joining the Wild and has points in four straight. The 30-year-old now has 14 goals and 34 points in 45 games this season.