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Thursday (Wild's strong playoff hopes rest with one man) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wild news Updated: February 27, 2014 - 9:32 AM

There are 23 regular-season Wild games left in this season -- just over a fourth of the year to go. Minnesota has 11 home games and 12 road games. The Wild is the No. 7 seed in the West, having put at least a little distance (four points) between it and slumping No. 8 Vancouver as well as the two teams chasing from below (Phoenix and Dallas, five points behind each). There is about a 75 percent chance that this team makes the playoffs, according to this site, which sounds about right when you think about how hard it can be to make up ground and lose ground this time of year.

But the biggest number is 1. One man that this season could very well ultimately be riding upon. And that man is one few would have counted on at the start of the year: young goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Michael Russo wrote a nice piece on the happy-go-lucky Kuemper for today's paper as the Wild prepares to resume at Edmonton tonight following the Olympic break.

Without a lot of things this season -- the early work of the now-sidelined Josh Harding, a few grind-them-out wins in early January after late December slide and the emergence of some of the team's younger forwards, to name a few -- those playoff odds wouldn't be so keen.

But if you're looking for the savior of the season, the one keeping a very realistic playoff hope alive, in our mind it is Kuemper. He hasn't matched the lights-out brilliance Harding brought when he was healthy earlier this year, but with Niklas fighting an injury and the puck for so much of his season, Kuemper's 8-3-2 record and 2.46 GAA have kept things from falling apart on average nights and flat-out stolen games on others.

The goaltending picture for this team going forward still looks strangely murky. Backstrom's contract and health, Harding's health and Kuemper's relative inexperience will be a riddle to solve in the offseason. For now, the Wild should be thrilled to ride whatever steadiness Kuemper can continue to provide into a quite possible second consecutive playoff berth.

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Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 91 FINAL
Miami 101
LA Lakers 93 FINAL
Chicago 113
Golden State 86 FINAL
LA Clippers 100
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 58 FINAL
Nebraska 71
Colorado 66 FINAL
Hawaii 69
George Washington 60 FINAL
Wichita State 54
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
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