The Wild can lock up the seventh seed and top wild-card spot in the Western Conference tonight with a win against the best team in the East, the Boston Bruins. Minnesota needs a single point to lock up a playoff berth (shootout or overtime loss), but a ‘W’ will ensure the seventh spot regardless of any other outcome around the National Hockey League.
There are outside forces that could come into play if the Wild doesn’t come out victorious, and we should know before the game wraps in Saint Paul. The Phoenix Coyotes are in action in Columbus at 6 p.m. State of Hockey Time. If Phoenix loses or wins by shootout (the tie breaker comes down to wins in regulation), the Wild is in. Meanwhile, if the Dallas Stars (trailing the Wild by seven points) lose in any fashion to the Nashville Predators, Minnesota’s in.
We clear on all that? Good. The only thing you really need to know is that the Wild holds its own destiny with a win tonight. That’s the only thing the Lighthouse is thinking about and we suggest you do the same.
Standing in Minnesota’s way, the Bruins, who own the League’s best record. The B’s have already locked up the Eastern Conference title. However, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo doesn’t expect anything less than the best effort from Boston.
“Playing a pretty decent team, a team that gave it to us pretty good in their building,” Yeo said. “This is a real tough task and we have to be ready.”
The Bruins beat the Wild on St. Patrick’s Day, 4-1, in the first meeting. One bright spot in facing the B’s tonight, documented Wild killer, Jarome Iginla, won’t be in the lineup. Iginla is nursing a “minor injury” and didn’t participate in the team’s morning skate. Iginla is the all-time leader against Minnesota in points (67), goals (37), shots (236) and game-winning goals (10), is T-1st in plus-minus rating (plus-19), second in power-play goals (10), T-2nd in games played (71) and T-3rd in assists (30). So, yeah, rest up Iggy.
Of course, the Wild has been in this situation before and the memories from last season are still fresh in its mind. In the penultimate contest against the Edmonton Oilers last year, the Wild had a chance to clinch on home ice. In an ugly outcome, the Oilers took it to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center, 6-1. The club had to travel to Colorado the following day and pull out a win in the final game of the season against the Avalanche, 3-1. The Wild doesn’t want to leave anything up to chance and is taking the lesson learned from last year into tonight’s contest.
“Hopefully the experience of last year helps us, and I think it has,” Yeo said. “You look at the way we’ve been playing our games most recently; we just concentrate on the game.
“That’s just another one of those end results we’re looking to have, and in order for that to happen, the process has to be there and that’s what our guys have done.”
The Wild will field the same lineup as yesterday’s 1-0 win in Winnipeg, so that means Ilya Bryzgalov will be in net again tonight. Bryz hasn’t allowed a goal in two-straight games and has played 142:15 without allowing a goal.
After arriving back in the Twin Cities in the wee hours of the morning, the club held a very optional practice today. Only the players out of the lineup skated this morning.
One of the players on the ice today was defenseman Clayton Stoner. Yeo said that he’s going to need a few practices before being ready for game action, but the bench boss believes he can make an impact come playoff time.
“We like his element back there,” Yeo said. “A real strong hard guy to play against. Going in, especially on the road against some bigger teams, it would be nice to get him back.”
Yeo believes Stoner should be able to return fairly quickly because he hasn’t missed all that much time with a lower-body injury.
Tonight kicks off Fan Celebration Week. Each fan in attendance will receive a BINGOAL card. Autographed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise Team USA jerseys will be given away during the intermissions. After the contest, the Wild players will present their sweaters to fans in the annual Jersey Off Our Backs ceremony. Go here, to find out more about Fan Celebration Week and to find special ticket offers.