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Wild look to feed off home crowd again in Game 6

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have their backs against the wall yet again.

A 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of their Western Conference Second Round series Sunday night in Chicago has the Wild one game away from elimination for the third time in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, it's been more than that. Twice in these playoffs, Minnesota has trailed in a series 2-0. Each time, Suter said Game 3 was like a must-win too.

"We always seem to make things harder than it needs to be," Suter said. "I don't know if that's a good thing to do, but it seems throughout the year that's kind of been the way we've gone about it, making things harder. We'd be up three or four goals, then let the other team back in it. That's how it's been, that's how it is now and [Tuesday] is do-or-die.”

It should help that the Wild have been down this road before.

In the first round against the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild battled back from series deficits of 2-0 and 3-2, stealing Game 7 in Denver to advance to the second round. Minnesota will need to follow a similar blueprint this time around if it hopes to make the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2003.

"It's a continuation of the challenge you're faced with in the playoffs, dealing with adversity, dealing with the frustration, the disappointment of a game like last game, another game that was there for us but we just couldn't push through to find a way to win," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But that said, the beauty of it is, we have a great opportunity [Tuesday]. That's the only thing we should be thinking about. We should be real excited about this opportunity, this challenge, and I believe that our guys are."

The good news for Minnesota: The Wild are 5-0 at Xcel Energy Center this postseason and have looked nearly unbeatable there over much of that span.

"There's no question that we fed off our fans," Yeo said. "We've asked our players to step their games up as the playoffs have gone on, and it seems like our fans have bought right into that too, because every game seems to somehow get a little bit louder, a little bit more emotion in the building. So I'm expecting a lot of the same [Tuesday]."

Minnesota dropped to 1-6 on the road in the playoffs with the loss Sunday, but the Wild have played better away from home in this round. They were tied in the third period of Game 1 and scored first in Chicago in Game 5, becoming the first team in the second round of the playoffs to score first and eventually lose the game. Teams that had scored first were 19-0 previously.

But Wild captain Mikko Koivu said his team can't think about that. Instead, it simply needs to focus on Tuesday night and earning the chance to play again in Chicago.

"We have to, like I said, just get ready for Game 6 here. That's our Game 7 right now," Koivu said. "We have to win that and we know that to get another chance, but in order for that to happen we have to play a great game and like I said again be a little bit better as a team."

Forward Matt Moulson and defenseman Keith Ballard each skated Monday during an optional practice at Xcel Energy Center. Yeo said he wouldn't be surprised if either played Tuesday, but wouldn't commit to them playing, even if things went well after the skate.

"We'll use that as a determination as to whether these guys are available for [Tuesday]," Yeo said.

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