The Minnesota Wild have created an uphill battle for themselves late in the playoff race. Back to back 4-0 losses to the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars have left the Wild in 11th place in the Western Conference, 4 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot, with just 13 games remaining. Tonight, they must find a way to bounce back in a big way when they hit the road to take on the West’s top team and division rival Vancouver Canucks.
However, there is plenty of good news for Minnesota. Minnesota has fared well against the Canucks this season, boasting a 2-2-0 record against the club so far this year. The Wild have also won 7 of their last 8 Northwest Division games. On top of that, Minnesota may (or may not) get captain Mikko Koivu and forward Cal Clutterbuck back tonight. Since the two have been lost to injury, the team has really struggled on offense, leaning heavily on the talents of Marin Havlat. If they could get just one of those two back on the ice tonight, it could be a big boost for them.
The bad news for the Wild comes in the form of Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. While Minnesota has done a very good job against the two this season, both twins rank in the top 3 in the NHL in points. Vancouver is also currently on a 5 game winning streak.
Minnesota will need a very strong start from goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom lost his last start in a 4-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, but owns an 11-8-5 record all time against Vancouver. In his last performance against the Nucks, he was on the losing end of a 4-1 decision.
The bottom line tonight is that the Wild need to find a way to come up with at least 1 a point to stay within striking distance of the final playoff spot. They know how to beat Vancouver, but if Koivu and Clutterbuck sit out, they will have to make some serious adjustments to keep their winning formula. It is very near do or die time for the Wild.