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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Winnipeg

Wild aims to wrap up perfect record against division rivals this season Tuesday in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (36-34-9) vs. Winnipeg Jets (45-29-4)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North PLUS, FOX Sports App

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter

ST. PAUL -- For all the talk of "must-win games" and "biggest games of the season," the Wild has reached the point where both statements are factually true.

Lose on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota will be eliminated from inclusion in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Even a victory might not be enough to escape Tuesday with a chance at the postseason: Following a shootout loss on Monday in St. Louis, the Colorado Avalanche leads the Wild by five points in the race for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Any combination of lost points by Minnesota and gained points by Colorado reaching two would eliminate the Wild. The Avalanche hosts the Edmonton Oilers later in the evening on Tuesday.

But that won't stop the Wild from putting forth a big effort in front of its home crowd on Tuesday.

Video: Monday practice update

"We're not out yet, so you've just got to bear down and go what you can and win," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "Obviously, the balls really have to fall in the right order, but nothing's going to work if you don't win three in a row. So, we'll go till we can't go anymore."

Minnesota has had its share of success against Winnipeg and is in search of a perfect record against the Jets this season. After losing in five games to Winnipeg in the First Round of last spring's playoffs, the Wild has posted a 4-0-0 record versus its division rivals in 2018-19. 

Winnipeg has plenty to play for with three games left in the regular season. The Jets lead the Blues and Nashville Predators by two points for first place in the Central Division standings. 

Nashville cannot catch the Jets in regulation/overtime wins, the first tiebreaker, but St. Louis remains just three wins back in the ROW category. 

A victory on Tuesday wouldn't clinch a division title outright, but would go a long way towards crowning the Jets as Central champs for the first time in franchise history.

Blake Wheeler leads the Jets offensively with 69 assists and 89 points. Mark Scheifele has a team-high 36 goals and 81 points. Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine have each scored at least 30 goals.

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves on Monday in the win in Chicago, which could indicate Eric Comrie could be in line to get the start.

Sturm signing

Minnesota signed free agent forward Nico Sturm to a one-year, entry-level contract for the remainder of the 2018-19 season on Monday.

The 6-foot-3, 211-pound native of Augsburg, Germany, led Clarkson University in scoring and assists with 45 points (14-31=45) in 39 games during his recently completed junior season and won 392-of-677 face-offs taken (57.9%). The team co-captain also led the Golden Knights with a plus-23 rating.

Sturm ranked T-4th in assists, T-8th in scoring and T-11th in points per game (1.15) in the NCAA this season.

He was named the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward for the second consecutive season, a Top Ten Hobey Baker Award Finalist, a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Award, to the 2019 ECAC Hockey All-Tournament Team and an ECAC First-Team All-League selection in 2018-19.

Sturm collected 103 points (36-67=103) and was a plus-47 in 118 games during three seasons at Clarkson University (2016-19). He led the NCAA with a 61.7% face-off win percentage (443-of-718) during his sophomore season and was named the 2017-18 ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward.

Series notes

All-Time Wild Record: 22-13-5 (12-5-3 at Xcel Energy Center, 10-8-2 at Winnipeg)

2018-19: Minnesota is 4-0-0 after four season meetings against Winnipeg…The Wild earned a 4-2 victory in the first game at Xcel Energy Center (11/23), a 3-1 win in the second game at Bell MTS Place (12/29), a 3-2 win in Saint Paul (1/10) and a 3-2 victory in the third game in Winnipeg (2/26)…LW Zach Parise leads the team with five points (1-4=5)…C Eric Staal owns four points (1-3=4)…D Jared Spurgeon (0-3=3) and LW Jason Zucker (3-0=3) each have three points…G Alex Stalock stopped 26-of-28 shots in the first contest…G Devan Dubnyk is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and a .943 SV% in three starts…RW Patrik Laine leads the Jets with four points (3-1=4)…LW Kyle Connor (0-2=2), C Bryan Little (0-2=2), C Mark Scheifele (2-0=2) and RW Blake Wheeler (0-2=2) have two points apiece…G Connor Hellebuyck is 0-4-0 with a 2.80 GAA and a .911 SV% in four starts.

WILD LEADERS: Staal leads Minnesota with 66 points (27-39=66) in 76 matches against Winnipeg…Parise owns 40 points (18-22=40) in 46 games…C Mikko Koivu has 24 points (7-17=24) in 34 contests.

WILD GOALIES: Dubnyk is 11-8-1 with a 2.58 GAA and a .911 SV% in 20 games (18 starts) vs. the Jets…Stalock is 4-2-0 with a 1.98 GAA, a .916 SV% and two shutouts in eight games (six starts).

JETS LEADERS: D Dustin Byfuglien leads Winnipeg with 33 points (8-25=33) in 41 games against Minnesota…Wheeler has 28 points (11-17=28) in 34 matchups…Little owns 21 points (9-12=21) in 30 contests…C Mathieu Perreault has 19 points (8-11=19) in 24 games…Scheifele owns 18 points (6-12=18) in 25 matches.

JETS GOALIES: Hellebuyck is 5-6-0 with a 2.60 GAA, a .911 SV% and one shutout in 14 games (13 starts) vs. the Wild…G Laurent Brossoit made 15-of-16 saves in relief in his sole career action against Minnesota (1/31/17)…G Eric Comrie has not faced the Wild.

Going green

The Wild will hosts its annual "Green Night," presented by Seventh Generation, on Tuesday. The game will coincide with NHL Green -- the League's sustainability initiative, which will be highlighted during the month of April as part of "Green Month."

The night will feature sustainability themes during in-game elements, including arena displays, fan contests and more. Fans are encouraged to wear green to the game to show their support. The University of Minnesota's Green Team will be on hand to assist fans inaccurately disposing of their recyclables and compostable waste throughout the game.

Fans are also encouraged to utilize digital ticketing for entry into the arena. All fans who use digital ticketing will be entered to win autographed Wild memorabilia. There will be one lucky winner, chosen at random, from Gate 1-4 entrances for a total of four grand prize winners.

Seventh Generation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Sierra Club Zero Waste Task Force will be represented at tables on the main concourse at Section 104. Each organization will share more information about the movement toward a healthier planet.

Did you know?

The Wild has earned points in 19 of its last 29 games against the Jets (16-10-3)…Minnesota is 9-4-2 in its last 15 games at Xcel Energy Center.

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