At this point in the season, it’s all about getting points. The Minnesota Wild has done a decent job of that recently, gaining points in four of its last five games. However, the 8th place Western Conference team has a golden opportunity to pick up a pair tonight, as they take on the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Minnesota has defeated the Jackets 4-2 both times the clubs have played one another thus far.
After an awful month long slide, the Wild is now trying to keep its head above water in the Western Conference playoff race. However, the team has been playing better as of late, and is (please don’t let me be a jinx) getting a little bit healthier. They will continue to have to improve, especially tonight.
With the 7th place Los Angeles Kings, who currently have two point advantage over the Wild in the conference standings, visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, the points on the line in Columbus could potentially move Minnesota into 7th, something that could go a long way in building the team’s confidence and play.
Another thing that could give the Wild a boost is the potential return of captain Mikko Koivu. Koivu, who has been out with a shoulder injury, has been practicing with the team and traveled with them to Ohio. While not a guarantee, he could possibly be back in the lineup tonight. Koivu’s play has proven to provide his team with the extra energy it’s needed in the past.
With or without its leader, tonight’s game will be about how the Wild fares on offense. With Niklas Backstrom, who has stopped 86 of the last 89 shots he has seen, getting the start in net tonight, Minnesota will need to continue to find their rhythm with the puck and grab an early lead. If they can put a few on the board, Backstrom should be able to make them stand up.
These two clubs will meet again in St. Paul on Saturday, with the Wild having a game against the Vancouver Canucks sandwiched in between on Thursday.
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