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Amid Distractions, Wild Focusing On A Big Game

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

There's a certain level of excitement for the Minnesota Wild ahead of its Sunday date against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

It's the first outdoor NHL game in Minnesota's history, many members of the Wild's locker room first foray into an outdoor pro game, and an occasion they'll share with friends and family.

But it also comes at a crucial juncture in the Wild's season, with Minnesota entering play on Saturday two points behind both the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators for the second wild card spot into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"The fun is over after the puck drops tomorrow," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "The boys had fun (Saturday), that was the main thing, to just get used to it, and be ready for the game, and be focused."

The Wild held a family skate on Friday, and a practice 20 hours later to get accustomed to the ice, and also soak in the atmosphere before playing an important divisional game against the Central-leading Blackhawks.

"At this time of the season especially we know how important a game it is," Zach Parise said. "It's a team that's playing really well, and a team that you know you have to go through. We have to make sure that we're ready, and try and limit the distractions that are going to be surrounding the game."

Torchetti said that after the Wild defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Thursday at Rexall Place, its focus shifted toward an important matchup that, while ripe with distracting elements, is a crucial game for a team trying to claw back into a playoff spot.

"We'll see in the first five minutes how they are," Torchetti said. "They're up for the challenge, and they're looking forward to it, and the excitement will definitely get them energized. I don't have to fire them up too much before the game starts."

Besides the crucial two points that are up for grabs, the Wild will also be opposite the team that eliminated it from the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

"You’ve got to enjoy it, but you’ve got to enjoy it in the right kind of way," Erik Haula said. "Look around in warmups if you need to, or on your way there, but when the puck’s dropped I feel like adrenaline is going to take over.

"We’ve got to treat it like any other game. In the situation we’re in it’s really big right now, and we’ve got to treat it that way. It’s playoff hockey right now."

To that point, Devan Dubnyk said it's also important not to overlook how unique of an experience this will be.

"That's one thing I've learned over the last couple of years, and kind of the ride that I've been on," he said. "It's important to really live in the moment, and soak in different situations that you get a chance … to be a part of. Who knows when you get a chance to be in a situation like this, or a game like this again?

"You don't want to zone out so much that you wake up a week from now and you don't remember any of it."

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