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With Two Games Left, Wild Wants To Play Right Way

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild knows how much the tide and the narrative can turn if it can come out Tuesday, play a complete game against the San Jose Sharks, and end a three-game losing streak.

Of course, a win in any fashion would also clinch the Wild a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, which was preceded by a season-best six-game winning streak, the Wild said it has gotten away from playing the type of game it needs to be successful.

Getting back to that on Tuesday, with two regular season games remaining on the schedule, could go a long way in getting Minnesota in the right state of mind to begin the playoffs, and also laying the final brick to its postseason foundation.

"It can change a lot of things," Zach Parise said. "It can make us feel good about how we're playing, and hopefully get us into the playoffs by winning a game.

"Fortunately, the stuff we've been doing is correctable, and hopefully tomorrow we can just play a better game than we have the last three."

Still five points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot, the Wild has two remaining chances, regardless of how Colorado performs over its final three games, to secure a game number 83 and beyond.

The Nashville Predators, at 92 points, are locked into the first wild card spot. A Wild win would erase the need for Colorado to miss out on any points, and Sharpie the Wild into the eight-seed in the Western Conference.

"One of the reasons I haven't talked about the playoffs is because we're not in the playoffs," interim head Coach John Torchetti said. "For the guys, with the five-point (lead), they've been sitting on a cushion, and that's not what it's all about. We have to focus on San Jose, and just get the job done."

After winning the sixth of that six-game winning streak, Minnesota opened up a five-point lead on Colorado with five regular season games remaining.

The Wild hasn't won since, but neither has Colorado. Now with potentially 120 minutes of regular-season hockey left, the Wild knows simply "getting in" won't cut it: It needs to also find its footing.

"I've seen teams that have carried momentum into the playoffs, and I've seen teams that have kind of limped in," Parise said. "Usually, it goes a lot better for the teams that are playing well, and doing things the right way going in.

"It's tough to just turn it on, and just expect to go in and play great games when leading up to it, you're making some mistakes that — we're a better team than what we've been showing."

Help could be on the way for the Wild Tuesday in the form of defenseman Jared Spurgeon. The top-pairing blue liner has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. He skated the first time on Monday since sustaining that injury last Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.

"I tested it out today," said Spurgeon, who skated on his own before joining an optional Wild practice at Xcel Energy Center afterward. "Obviously not a lot of guys out there, but it was good to get out there. I'll test it out tomorrow morning and see how it goes from there."

Torchetti said Spurgeon's lack of hockey activity over the past four days doesn’t rule him out against the Sharks.

"If he's good to go, he's going to play," Torchetti said. "We miss him a lot. He just makes a good first-pass on everything, and makes really good decisions, and he plays bigger than he is, that's for sure."

Spurgeon, like Parise, and the rest of the Wild, said Minnesota doesn't want to leave its playoff invitation in the hands of Colorado's three remaining opponents.

In order, the Avalanche plays at Nashville, at Dallas, and then versus Anaheim.

"We don't want to be waiting," Spurgoen said. "We want to go into the playoffs playing well. The last couple of games haven't been our best, but we're looking forward to getting back on track in front of our home crowd."

Forward Thomas Vanek, who has missed two of the past three games with an upper-body injury, will remain out on Tuesday.

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