We need this one. We really, really need this one. The Wild gets its second chance to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tonight on the road against the Colorado Snowflakes, also known as the Avalanche.
In the final day of the NHL regular season, we have a lot of possibilities for the final two spots in the West. With a win tonight, the Wild would lock up its first postseason appearance in five years. Thanks to a tiebreaker, Minnesota will be in if the Columbus Blue Jackets lose in regulation against the Nashville Predators. Currently sitting in eighth in the Western Conference, the Wild can jump ahead of the Detroit Red Wings with a Minnesota win and a Wings loss.
Now that we have all the possible scenarios out of the way, lets get to brass tacks, the Wild in Colorado. After a 6-1 loss at home last night, Minnesota needs a big bounce-back game. Leading the way will be Niklas Backstrom and no one is better at coming back after a poor performance than him. The netminder is 21-3-4 with a 1.84 GAA and a .933 SV% games after being pulled (non-injury) in his career, including 17-1-2 with a 1.67 GAA and a .940 SV% since March 26, 2008. In his career in Denver, he’s posted a 10-2-1 record with a 2.10 GAA and a .935 SV% with three shutouts.
Today, the Wild recalled forwards Stephane Veilleux and Jason Zucker from the Houston Aeros, the club’s American Hockey League affiliate. Minnesota assigned Jake Dowell to Houston.
Zucker will be on a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi.
Veilleux will be a healthy scratch. On the blue line, Brett Clark and Nate Prosser will be out. Jason Pominville is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and didn’t travel with the team. Dany Heatley is out for the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery.
The Wild sports it road whites, while the Avs wear its maroon sweater with mountain ‘A’ logo.
Follow tonight’s action on Twitter at @mnwildLIVE.
Let’s get this one!
Period 1 - MIN 1, COL 1
Minnesota got off to the start it wanted, but Colorado evened things up late in the period.
The Wild needs a big effort out of its top line and they got things rolling in the first. After a good forecheck, Mikko Koivu took the puck at the left boards and threw it towards the net. Charlie Coyle got a piece of the puck, but Semyon Varlamov made the initial save. Zach Parise was stationed in front and banged home the rebound for his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
The Avs capitalized on a good forecheck of its own. Gabriel Landeskog was in the corner and slid the puck to Ryan O'Reilly, who was going to the net. O'Reilly roofed a shot over the glove of Backstrom. Patrick Bordeleau picked up the second assist on the play.
The Wild out-chanced the Avalanche and outshot them, 16-4. I have a feeling Minnesota is going to pour it on in the second.
Period 2 - MIN 2, COL 1
The Avs thought it took a lead, but after a review, it turns out that Chuck Kobasew used a kicking motion to get the puck past Backstrom and the goal was waived off.
The Wild scored a power play goal to retake the lead. Devin Setoguchi caught the puck at the top of the right circle and unleashed a rocket through a screen for his 13th goal of the season. Matt Cullen and Tom Gilbert pieced up assists on the play.
Twenty more minutes and the Wild is in the playoffs for the first time in five season. Hold it down boys.
Period 3 - MIN 3, COL 1
We're in! It took a gutsy third period and the Wild added an empty netter by Pierre-Marc Bouchard to secure the win over the Avs.
The Wild are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five years and will meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the Quarterfinals of the Western Conference. See you all in Chi-town.