The Minnesota Wild is on the verge of clinching its second straight playoff berth. Heading into Saturday's game, the Wild's magic number has dwindled to 5 points. Any combination of Wild wins/OT losses and Phoenix losses that equates to 5 points will result in the Wild heading to the playoffs. The Wild's magic number to secure the 7th spot in the Western Conference is at 8, and would need any combination of Wild wins/OT losses and Dallas losses and the Wild would solidify the top wild card position.
Needless to say, the Wild have the toughest schedule of any of the teams chasing them, and every single point is extremely valuable, and every point missed by the teams behind them is "HUMANGOUS BIG," as Ilya Bryzgalov once so eloquently put. That's why Thursday's shootout loss in Chicago was a really important point. The Wild were under two minutes from leaving Chicago with nothing, but the heroics of Erik Haula just throwing a wrist shot on net was exactly what the Wild needed.
Phoenix lost Friday night in the shootout to the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 3-2 and won't pay next until Tuesday. Dallas was idle on Friday, but lost Thursday 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes and will head to Tamp Bay to take on the Lightning on Saturday.
The Wild are currently sitting in 7th place with 90 points with 5 games remaining. Minnesota has two of its remaining five games against two non-playoff teams in Winnipeg and Nashville. Assuming they win those games, it brings the Wild to 94 points which would be the fourth best season the Wild has had in their 14-year history. The Wild will have to find a way to steal a game against Pittsburgh, Boston, or St. Louis. Depending on what those teams have to play for, that task will not be easy. Not to mention the schedules that Dallas and Phoenix have left, the Wild will need a little bit of help from other teams down the stretch.
It's imperative that the Wild play that simple, grinding, and gritty play that has helped them win on the road since the Olympic break and translate that to the Xcel Energy Center ice. Mike Yeo said that the Wild were almost "arrogant" in their latest home loss against the Canucks. Michael Russo seemed to think that the offensively-challenged Wild were "getting too cute" by trying to look for the perfect play in front of the home crowds. With four of the next five at home, finding their game at home is increasingly important. If they do, the Wild will find themselves in the post-season.