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The Official Site of the Minnesota Wild

Central Intelligence: April 1

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Each Friday during the regular season, will review the activity in the Central Division, taking a look at how the other teams performed in the past week.

With the end of the regular season less than a month away, the playoff picture is becoming clearer. Below are the Western Conference standings, and potential first-round matchups for the Minnesota Wild.

x-Dallas 103 45 4
x-St. Louis 101 41 4
x-Los Angeles 97 44 5
x-Chicago 97 44 4
x-ANaheim 96 40 5
x-San Jose 92 40 4
x-Nashville 91 35 4
Minnesota 87 35 3
COlorado 82 35 4

ROW – Regulation and overtime wins, the first tiebreaker

x – Team has clinched a playoff spot

Wild vs. Dallas Stars

Season series: Dallas wins, 4-1

Top performers: Charlie Coyle has two goals and four assists; Erik Haula has a goal and three assists; Justin Fontaine has a goal and two assists and is a plus-seven. John Klingberg has three goals and three assists; Tyler Seguin has two goals and five assists; Jamie Benn has three goals and six assists.

Overview: Three of the five games between the Wild and Stars this season have gone to overtime, and four of the five have been decided by a goal. The only game not decided by a goal — a 6-3 Dallas victory in December — featured two empty-net Stars goals in the closing minutes. 

In summation, these games have been close. The Wild led by two goals in that December loss, and three goals in an overtime loss in November. It's a season series that very easily could be flipped on its head record-wise.

Forward Tyler Seguin is out for the rest of the regular season with a partially cut Achilles, but is expected to back for the first round.

Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

Season series: Blues win, 3-2

Top performers: Matt Dumba has two goals and 11 shots on goal; Ryan Suter has a goal, three assists, and has averaged 29:47 time on ice; Charlie Coyle has two goals and three assists. Alexander Steen has two goals and three assists; Vladimir Tarasenko has two goals and an assist in three games; Paul Stastny has a goal and three assists.

Overview: These teams have alternated wins and losses all season, with the Blues having won the past two meetings. In what would be a rematch of a first round series from the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Central Division rivals know each other quite well.

Again, another team the Wild has been neck-and-neck with all season. Two one-goal games, two two-goal games that feature empty-netters, and a 4-1 Blues win in February that saw the Wild outshoot St. Louis 39-24. There hasn't been much margin for error on either side, but those mistakes have generally accounted for the differences between winning and losing this season.

Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings

Season series: Wild wins, 2-1

Top performers: Darcy Kuemper and Devan Dubnyk have combined to stop 105 of 108 shots against; Mikko Koivu has two power-play goals and a shorthanded assist; Zach Parise has a power-play goal and two power-play assists. Tyler Toffoli has two goals, including one power-play goal; Drew Doughty has an assist, 11 shots on goal, and has averaged 27:04 time on ice; Anze Kopitar has a game-winning overtime goal, five shots on goal, and has a 70.1 shot-attempts percentage.

Overview: The Wild has received excellent goaltending in its games against the Kings from Darcy Kuemper and Devan Dubnyk. Kuemper started the first two games, going 1-0-1 with a shutout, and a .971 save percentage. Dubnyk made a season-high 38 saves in a 2-1 Wild victory on Tuesday. The Kings have outshot the Wild in all three meetings this season, but the Wild has come away with five of a possible six points, largely due to its goaltending.

Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Season series: Wild leads, 5-0

Top performers: Devan Dubnyk is 5-0-0 with a .937 save percentage, and five even-strength goals allowed on 119 shots, or a .958 save percentage; Erik Haula has three goals and four assists; Nino Niederretier has four goals and three assists. Jonathan Toews has two goals and two assists; Patrick Kane has two goals and an assist; Artemi Panarin has two assists and seven shots on goal.

Overview: The Wild did something no team has done against Chicago in the past 76 years in winning each game of a season-series against the Blackhawks having played five games or more. The Wild also became the third team in NHL history to sweep a season series of that length against a defending Stanley Cup champion.

Like many of these other matchups, these games have been close: Three of the five were decided by a goal, with one of those in a shootout. The Wild defeated Chicago 6-1 at TCF Bank Stadium in its 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game, and most recently 4-1 in Saint Paul. In that final game, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure after swinging his stick at Charlie Coyle's face. Keith has been offered an in-person hearing, meaning he could incur a suspension in length that could carry over into the playoffs.

Wild vs. Anaheim Ducks

Season series: Anaheim wins, 2-1

Top performers: Jared Spurgeon has two assists and five shots on goal; Nino Niederreiter has a goal, an assist, and nine shots on goal; Mikko Koivu has two assists and seven shots on goal. Rickard Rakell has two goals and eight shots on goal; Corey Perry has two assists; Hampus Lindholm has a goal, an assist, and five shots on goal.

Overview: Each team won early in the season on its home ice, before the Ducks won the rubber-match at Honda Center in January. The Wild has had the better of the puck possession, out-shooting Anaheim 91-64 combined over the three games.

The Ducks were a different team by the time the Wild came out West right before the All-Star Break. When the Wild defeated the Ducks earlier in the season, Anaheim dropped to 1-5-1. Since starting the year at 1-7-2, Anaheim has been one of the hottest teams in the NHL, going 39-16-8.

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