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Chart: Five keys to the Wild making the playoffs

  • January 6, 2012 - 8:44 PM

5 KEYS TO THE WILD MAKING THE PLAYOFFS

1 FIND THE UNFLAPPABLE STYLE AGAIN

The Wild won 17 out of 21 games because it limited chances in the defensive zone and quickly got the puck out, then limited speed through the neutral zone with an aggressive trap. It went on suffocating forechecks by chipping pucks behind the defense. The Wild didn't crack; opponents did. "Over a 60-minute game, that wears on teams," Kyle Brodziak said.

2 INCREASE SCORING

Despite the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the Wild averages 2.22 goals per game, 29th in the NHL. The power play lacks any type of confidence. The Wild needs more from Heatley (12 goals) and Setoguchi (eight). Brodziak has no goals in the past nine games and Matt Cullen has two in the past 22.

3 WIN AT HOME

If the Wild can survive a stretch of 10 out of 13 games on the road, the team will put itself in prime position to end a three-year playoff drought. Eighteen of the final 29 games are at home, 10 of the final 14. Xcel Energy Center must be made a difficult place for opponents to play in, or the postseason is a guaranteed miss.

4 KEEP KOIVU HEALTHY

Center Mikko Koivu is the one irreplaceable piece on the Wild. He's the offense generator (22 points in the past 20 games), chief faceoff guy (52.9 percent) and No. 1 power-play, penalty-kill and shootout option. And the defensive stalwart. When he's gone, it knocks every line out of whack. Koivu injury? Lights out.

5 MAKE A TRADE

The Wild has an abundance of defensemen. The team's collapse coincided with healthy defensemen being scratches, and some of them can't play well when they think every mistake will propel them into the press box. The Wild needs scorers, and with many top prospects in the organization, GM Chuck Fletcher might make a significant trade.

MICHAEL RUSSO

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