ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Breaking down playoff scenarios this time of year sometimes can get confusing.
But for the Minnesota Wild, who haven't been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2008, getting there this season can't be any simpler: Win on Friday against the Edmonton Oilers and they're in.
History would indicate Minnesota has a reasonably solid chance of becoming the seventh team in the Western Conference to clinch a postseason berth. The Wild have won 19 of their past 20 games against the Oilers at Xcel Energy Center. Niklas Backstrom, expected to get the start in goal for Minnesota, never has lost to Edmonton at home.
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Of the three remaining teams in the West hoping to clinch one of the final two spots, Minnesota is in the best position to do it. Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings have just one game remaining, while the Wild have two, against the two teams with the fewest points in the conference -- after the Oilers, they play Saturday at the Colorado Avalanche.
But veterans like Kyle Brodziak know nothing will be handed to them over the next 36 hours, especially against prideful division rivals. The teams they are competing for that last spot with also have caught fire recently and also finish with games against teams out of the playoff race.
"Nobody expected us to get any help," Brodziak said. "The teams that are fighting for the playoff spots, you have to expect they are going to be winning games. I think as soon as the game [Tuesday] finished, we knew we were going to have to do the same [Friday]."
Brodziak is wrapping up his fourth season with the Wild and has played two full seasons and parts of two others with the Oilers. In those eight seasons, Brodziak has yet to skate in a playoff game in the National Hockey League.
Instead, Brodziak has heard about the playoff experience from teammates like Zach Parise, who has made the playoffs in each full season he's played in since entering the League in 2005.
"Yeah, it is the unknown," Brodziak said. "There's guys that talk about it all the time, how exciting it is, and how much fun it is. That's what guys are excited for, to be able to play at that other level that a lot of us haven't been able to play at before."
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
For Parise, who left the New Jersey Devils to sign with the Wild last July 4, making the playoffs has become an annual ritual. The only time New Jersey missed the postseason when Parise was there was when he missed all but 13 games of the 2010-11 season.
When he, along with defenseman Ryan Suter, signed with Minnesota last summer, Parise said playoff expectations for him hadn't changed.
"No question," Parise said. "I knew the history of the team, having missed [the playoffs] for four years, but I think at the same time, when Ryan and I signed here, we expected to make the playoffs right away. Now we're in a position where we can, and I think that will be a good step for our organization right now."
Parise said he doesn't believe in jinxing things before the end of the season -- "Not like it's going to change anything," he said -- although he would like the Wild to have things wrapped up before talking specifics. Despite that, he has made no qualms about telling his teammates that haven't been to the playoffs what his experiences have been like.
"You try and relay as much as you can the type of game you have to play," Parise said. "The way you have to play in order to consistently win in the playoffs."
The end of the season has given the Wild a taste of how the playoffs could be. The team has experienced several peaks and valleys over the course of the last few weeks. Not long ago, the Wild appeared to be a sure playoff team before a stretch of five straight home losses provided plenty of doubt. But a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday ended that skid and may have given Minnesota a blueprint of how it must play in the postseason, if indeed it does get there.
Parise said that's the most important thing.
"That's how it is in the playoffs -- you lose one game and you think the world is coming to an end. But all of a sudden, you win a game or two in a row and you think you're going to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "You've got to find a way to control that emotion after a win and a loss."