A crushing 4-0 loss to the Coyotes Sunday didn’t mathematically eliminate the Wild from playoff contention, but that could happen Tuesday when the team hosts the Jets at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild will be officially out if it loses, the Avalanche beats the Oilers or the Wild and Avalanche both fall in extra time.
“We’re not dead yet,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We have to win. That’s priority No.1. … If you don’t believe, it’ll never happen. But if you believe, and you keep the faith, sometimes miracles do happen.”
What should encourage the Wild is it’s a perfect 4-0 against Winnipeg this season, a strong track record that’s been fueled by stingy defending, opportunistic scoring and steady special-teams play.
“We’ve played emotional games against them,” Boudreau said. “Everybody’s played at the top of their game. Maybe a little hangover from last year’s [playoff] defeat. I don’t know why we’ve had the 4-0 success against them that we’ve had. But whatever it is, we’d like to make it 5-0.”
“We’re not dead yet. ... If you don’t believe, it’ll never happen. But if you believe, and you keep the faith, sometimes miracles do happen.” pic.twitter.com/ySEwQdGKrC— Sarah McLellan (@sarah__mclellan) April 2, 2019
Winger Zach Parise will be a game-time decision after missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury. Parise said he felt he could play when he came off the ice Tuesday morning but explained he’d need to get clearance from the training staff before returning to the lineup.
“Better today again,” he said. “So that’s a good sign.”
It seems unlikely the Wild will slot in center Nico Sturm after signing the college free agent to a one-year, entry-level contract Monday. Sturm skated with the group but didn’t have a work visa yet.
If he was able to secure that before puck drop, Boudreau said he’d consider playing the 23-year-old.
“I just hope he comes in and plays his best,” Boudreau said. “It’s an interesting dynamic. He’s had a great year in college [at Clarkson]. … He signed a one-year deal so that would make him a restricted free agent I assume. So hopefully he comes in here and likes the situation and wants to play for us again next year.”
Sturm said the Wild’s plan for the future, spelled out to him by General Manager Paul Fenton, is the reason he chose to sign with the Wild.
“With the young group of guys with Ryan [Donato] and Kevin [Fiala] and all of those guys that are in place, it's the same age group,” Sturm said. “That's a core group to grow with over the next couple of years and along with that, I have great role models here with [Mikko] Koivu and [Eric] Staal that I can learn a lot from down the middle. It was a great fit. There's opportunity and at the same time, a great learning experience with the guys that are still here.”
Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Jason Zucker
Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Ryan Donato-Victor Rask-Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno-Eric Fehr-J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Brad Hunt
Nick Seeler-Greg Pateryn
40: Points for Parise in 46 career games vs. Winnipeg.
.943: Save percentage for goalie Devan Dubnyk this season against the Jets.
147: Points by Wild defensemen this season.
8: Power play goals in the Wild’s last 28 opportunities.
2.4: Shots per game for winger Ryan Donato.
About the Jets:
Winnipeg is playoff-bound, but its grip on the top seed in the Central Division is slipping. The Jets, with 96 points, are just two ahead of the Blues and Predators. They’re coming off a 4-3 overtime win Monday over the Blackhawks. Before then, the team had dropped three in a row and four of its previous five. Winnipeg is 5-3 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.