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Wild still believes playoff run possible despite tough stretch

Even with one win in nine games since the break, Minnesota remains inside the playoff bubble

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- In front of a nationally televised audience, in its home arena before a packed crowd, the Wild once again had one of its most frustrating games of the season. 

It comes in the midst of a frustrating stretch of hockey, with Minnesota posting just one win in nine games since exiting the All-Star break. 

On Sunday, the Wild's penalty kill allowed a pair of goals in the first period. It's power play 0-for-2. It never got on track 5-on-5. This after a maddening overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Friday in which the Wild lost a three-goal lead. Which came on the heels of a blown two-goal lead three nights earlier.

But one thing the Wild hasn't lost -- at least yet -- is its hold on a playoff spot. And it's something coach Bruce Boudreau is trying to drive into the minds of his weary bunch as it looks for something ... anything ... to get the team going back in the right direction. 

"I know we keep saying we're still there, but we're still there. Like I try to tell the guys, don't be so damned defeatist in the room," Boudreau said. "Don't come off hanging your heads. 

"The L.A. Kings squeaked into the playoffs eighth spot, but the last five games of that year - we played them twice - and they were playing great. And they ended up winning the Cup. I think Nashville was in eighth place two years ago and they ended up going to the Finals. 

"Everybody wants to count us out because we're not playing well right now. But at the same time, I believe we're going to turn it around. We always have in the past. We just need that one spark I think."

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. St. Louis

Perhaps the most difficult part of this run to swallow for the Wild has been the opportunity other teams around it have given it to pull away in the standings. 

While St. Louis tied a franchise record by winning its 10th consecutive game on Sunday, Vancouver, Colorado, Arizona and Edmonton have all been under .500 -- and in some cases, well under .500 -- over the past 10 games. 

A couple more wins during this stretch, even bumping its record to .500, and the Wild would be in an enviable position with 23 games remaining. 

"Right now, the positivity is, we're not in 13th place, we're not in last place, we're a playoff-able team," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "We're right there, we just gotta kind of get over this hump."

Video: Locker room postgame vs. St. Louis

Minnesota will wake up Monday morning in the second wild card spot in the West, one point clear of the Canucks with one game in hand. Arizona, Chicago and Colorado are all within three points and the Coyotes and Avs each have a game in hand. 

At one point or another this season, nearly all of the West's wild-card contenders were considered dead in the water. 

Chicago was one of the NHL's worst teams for half a season before putting together a solid run over the last month. 

Dallas was supposedly done when one of its executives publicly called out its two top players. 

Heck, St. Louis had the fewest points in the Western Conference just last month, and now it's comfortably ensconced in the third position in the Central Division.

Each of those teams has since put together a run at some point, and the Wild has to hope it too can do the same before the season runs out. 

"Yeah, it's no fun. It's tight right now. There's so many teams. It just seems when you look, everybody else is losing, too," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "We're still sitting pretty good with how bad we've been playing, But at the end of the day, if we keep playing like this, we'll fall right out of it. We gotta find a way to inch away at some confidence and just play a better overall game.
"We need to win. That's pretty clear. I think everyone knows that with how tight the standings are and where we're at we need points. So regardless of how we get them, we gotta get them and we haven't been doing that. We're in control of what we can control, and that's trying to compete and win games. Right now we're not doing that and we gotta find a way to do that."


Postgame Hat Trick: Blues 4, Wild 0

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