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Minnesota hopes to have a Wild time

Stanley Cup Playoff fortunes could depend on game against Avalanche

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn -- The Minnesota Wild have been working on a winning streak for the past week. Now they have a chance to build on that streak -- and their lead in the wild-card standings -- when they play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; ALT, FS-N, NHL.TV).

Minnesota holds a three-point lead for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Colorado has a game in hand.

"Every game [has big ramifications] for us right now and I think we all understand that," Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "The better position we can put ourself in … the better off we'll be. That'll be a big game, but it's still just one game and we still have games afterwards that we have to win. We just got to take it one at a time, and that one's next."

The Wild tied their season-long four-game win streak with a 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Thursday; it's the third time under coach John Torchetti, who took over on Feb. 13, that Minnesota has won four straight.

Video: CGY@MIN: Parise's tip-in secures hat trick in the 1st

The dwindling schedule and tightening playoff race has done nothing to change Torchetti's game-by-game approach, however.

"I treat every game the same," Torchetti said. "Everyone says it in the NHL, 'Tonight is a big game.' Every game is a big game because (if) you lose a game because of detail, game 10 could cost you a spot in the playoffs, and that's what it comes down to."

It's a simple approach his team has bought into. The Wild are 13-6-1 since Torchetti replaced Mike Yeo as coach. Minnesota has scored more goals (67) than any team in the NHL during that stretch.

On Thursday, Parise's third hat trick of the season vaulted him to the top of the Wild's goal-scoring chart with 22 this season, a total that doesn't rank among the top 50 in the League.

But Minnesota's balance is critical: No team has more double-digit goal scorers than the Wild's 11.

Minnesota doesn't have one superstar line or a 50-goal scorer, which puts more of an emphasis on effort and balance.

Lately, that's what the Wild have been getting.

"Your best players have to come out hard and play every night, and the role players have to play their roles," Torchetti said. "That's what we're talking about, making sure we're dialed in and being detailed moving forward."

Shootout wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks started the streak, which extended to three games against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. A game against the Flames, who had been playing well, awaited before the game against the Avalanche.

Facing Colorado has been on minds of the Wild players, even though they hadn't been talking about it until the conclusion of the game against Calgary.

"We know the importance of it," Parise said. "We didn't want to overlook [the Calgary game] and we did a good job of not doing that. Now we can start getting ready for that big one."

Parise said the Wild know what to expect on Saturday; Minnesota has played more games against the Avalanche than any other opponent in team history, including a first-round playoff series that went seven games in 2014.

Colorado will be without two important players, forwards Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, but Parise said that doesn't change anything.

"We always have good games with those guys," Parise said. "They're exciting, tough games, so I wouldn't expect this to be any different, [especially] with everything that's on the line."

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