The Minnesota Wild have put themselves in a tough spot heading into the final nine games of the season. Following a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, the Wild are in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with a five-point lead over the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets. After an 11-4-0 run in March, the Wild have lost four of five games and have been shut out twice. Injuries to Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen have threatened to hamper the team’s plans for the postseason, but the trade deadline addition of Jason Pominville should help.
The Wild have a favorable schedule in the final two weeks of the season, as they play the Calgary Flames (14th) twice and the Colorado Avalanche (15th) once. Their next two games are critical, as they take on the St. Louis Blues (sixth) on Thursday and face a game with potential for a four-point swing in the standings when they host the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Niklas Backstrom continues to perform well in net, but the Wild need a bigger offensive contribution if they hope to maintain their current position or move up.
In their four most recent losses, the Wild have scored only three goals. Zach Parise has not found the back of the net in the last five games, while the team’s leading scorer Mikko Koivu has not score in seven games. With Heatley out for the rest of the season and Cullen expected to miss at least another week, the time for Parise to step up and justify his major offseason deal with the Wild has arrived. Pominville has one goal and one assist in three games for the Wild, and the team will need him to be a consistent factor down the stretch. The Wild have been very active in adding key pieces for last summer, and will need to make the playoffs to justify their spending.