The Wild has gotten in the habit of advancing to the postseason, with the team booking its sixth straight trip earlier this week.
But what will be new about the 2018 experience is the opponent, as this will be the first time the Wild has faced the Jets – the team’s first-round challenger, a matchup that was finalized before a 5-4 overtime loss to the Kings Thursday at Staples Center when the Predators clinched the Central Division title.
“They come at you nine deep,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Their ‘D’ are up the ice. You better be able to play good defense against them without giving anything away. You can’t trade chance for chance with them. They’re too good for that. We know we got our work cut out for us.”
These two teams haven’t squared off since January when the Wild earned its first and only win of the season series, which the Jets took 3-1. Since then, the Jets have remained one of the NHL’s top teams.
Winnipeg ranks among league leaders in wins (51), goals-per-game (3.32), goals-against-per-game (2.65), power play (23.3 percent) and penalty kill (81.7 percent).
“The Jets are solid up and down their lineup,” center Eric Staal said. “They’ve got good balance, as do we. It’s going to present a great test, but we should be excited for it and I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s overtime loss to the Kings.
-The Wild’s ability to overcome a two-goal deficit in the third to pocket a point against the Kings shouldn’t come as a surprise since resiliency has become a hallmark of this group this season.
“We weren’t happy with the way we were playing,” defenseman Nate Prosser said. “We built our game back up there a little bit in the third and mounted a comeback, so it was nice.”
-Staal needs just one goal Saturday to tie Marian Gaborik’s franchise record for most tallies in a single season after scoring his 41st Thursday.
“It’d be fun, for sure,” Staal said. “But it’s not the be-all, end-all. Just gotta try and play a solid game to build on and be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs. That’s obviously the main focus.”
-Although the penalty kill was tagged with a goal, snapping a 21-for-21 run, the unit still seems to be in a groove since it killed off five other chances for the Kings and chipped in a goal – a shorthanded tally from Prosser in the third that tied it at four.
“The PK was really good,” Boudreau said.