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The Wild Beat

Wild eager to resume playing in tight playoff race

During this downtime in the schedule, the Wild has been able to survey the rest of the teams in the league and notice just how close the races for playoff spots are in both conferences.

And that’s a trend coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t see changing any time soon.

“With the cap and most teams are playing to the cap these days, I see it being just as tight,” he said. “Every team’s going to have a down year every now and again, but they’ll regroup in a hurry.”

Even amid turnover like that, someone else is usually ready to swoop in and fill that gap.

Take the Central Division this season, with the Blackhawks slipping and failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. But the division has been just as rigorous since the Avalanche has orchestrated a turnaround to vie for a berth after completing last season in last place with 48 points.

“If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, you always think Chicago is going to be there and I don’t know if at the beginning of the year you would have thought Colorado was going to do as well as they have,” Boudreau said. “But after playing them four times, you kind of understand how good they are.”

Add in a team like the Predators that is coming off a run to the Stanley Cup final, a group in the Jets that has matured and the steady threats that are the Stars and Blues, and the Central has been the epitome of the parity that’s headlining the NHL.

“Winnipeg, we knew it was just a matter of time before they put it all together,” Boudreau said. “So they’ve always had great talent for the last few years. They’ve just never put it all together at the same time. You knew Nashville was going to be good. You knew St. Louis and Dallas with the offseason moves were going to be right up there.”

And not only has this caliber of competition made the rest of the season can’t-miss action, it’s also made the Wild eager to get back on the ice. After an optional session Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, the team will practice Friday and then finally suit up Saturday against the Predators at home.

“When you watch games that don’t go the way you want them to go, you want to play,” Boudreau said. “So we’ll have another good practice tomorrow and get prepared.”

Wild back to work with intense practice as schedule lull continues

The Wild spent more than an hour on the ice Wednesday inside Xcel Energy Center chasing the puck and each other in an intense session that capped off with even more skating.

And that was exactly the rigorous tone coach Bruce Boudreau wanted, with the team in the midst of a four-day lull before its next game Saturday at home against the Predators.



“I wanted to make it a little harder,” Boudreau said. “We’ve only got pretty well one more practice left before the end of the season. When you have a day off and some guys are getting tomorrow off, as well, that if you don’t have a good skate come playing the best team in the league, you might be a little behind the pace here. I thought the practice had to be a little more difficult. It’s the first time we’ve had a really good skate since maybe Christmas.”

Everyone participated in the session except defenseman Ryan Suter, who had a family situation, Boudreau said.

“He’ll be here tomorrow with the optional [practice],” Boudreau said.

And while the focus during practice is on getting the team ready to finish the remaining nine games on a high note, there’s an opportunity away from the rink to unplug mentally.

“I do,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “I’m sure it’s a little bit different with the guys with kids and things like that. But I think you want to use that time with your family and kind of stay away from the game and recharge, and mentally you want to just kind of reset.”

One person who is staying informed on what’s happening in the league while the Wild is idle is Boudreau.

A point from the 4-3 overtime loss to the Kings Monday ensured the Wild wouldn’t be knocked from its perch as the third seed in the Central Division during this layoff, but Boudreau is keeping an eye on how everyone else is faring while the Wild is having some downtime.

“I don’t have any comfort,” he said. “I go through the lists 20 times a game and who they play and the ramifications of last night. I’m either getting ticked off or giving a big cheer. But that’s what this time of year is all about, and that’s what makes sports so exciting.”

Final, 3/19 1 2 3 OT F
Los Angeles 40-27-6 1 1 1 1 4
Minnesota 41-24-8 0 2 1 0 3

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