The Wild didn’t move from its spot as the third seed in the Central Division during its four-day break, a position it solidified for that layoff with the point it secured Monday in an overtime loss to the Kings.
But its cushion did shrink, with the Avalanche moving within two points – a gap the Wild can start to influence again when it resumes playing Saturday against the Predators at Xcel Energy Center.
“We control our own destiny, and I think that’s all you can ask for our team right now,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
It is possible Colorado ties the Wild before the team takes to the ice; the Avalanche faces the Golden Knights at 2 p.m. Central Time. But since the Wild has played fewer games, it would still retain the third spot if the Avalanche tied it at 90 points.
“There’s not a lot of wiggle room on any team here,” Boudreau said. “I’m glad we’re sitting in the position we’re in, quite frankly. But it’s not going to be easy coming down the stretch. It’s up to us. It’s not up to any team losing. It’s up to us winning. If we do what we’re capable of us doing, I think we’ll be successful.”
That push to the finish line begins against the Predators, who are skating as a Stanley Cup favorite. And Saturday isn’t the last time these two teams will square off; the Wild visits Nashville Tuesday to complete the five-game season series.
“Their balance is great,” Boudreau said. “Their determination is right there. They’ve been to the Cup final recently where all their players remember it, and they want to get there this year and right now they’re in actually a little bit of a battle for first place because Winnipeg is doing so well. So it’s a team with very few weaknesses and if you don’t play a perfect game, you’re not going to succeed against them.”
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund
Daniel Winnik-Matt Cullen-Nino Niederreiter
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Tyler Ennis
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Ryan Murphy
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
3: Straight wins for the Wild over the Predators at Xcel Energy Center.
12-6-2: Goalie Devan Dubnyk’s record in 21 games vs. Nashville.
7: Game point streak for forward Charlie Coyle.
4: Shutouts for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne against the Predators.
Jan.2: The Predators’ last regulation loss on the road.
About the Predators:
Nashville has already secured a postseason berth and is pacing the Western Conference with 106 points. The team recently had a franchise-record 15-game point streak snapped with its first regulation loss since Feb. 17. The Predators are still in the midst of a franchise-record point streak on the road (15) and win streak (nine). Rinne is 21-2-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his last 24 games. In front of Rinne, the Predators boast the eighth-best goals-per-game clip at 3.19.