Like division rivals Dallas and Nashville, Minnesota has gone 3-5-2 in its past 10 games, both win-less and point-less in three games last week. Through 45 games played, the Wild have 22 wins and 52 points, good enough for the top wild card spot in the West. St. Louis is seven points ahead, while Nashville and Vancouver have closed the gap to four for eighth and ninth, respectively, with 48 points. Colorado is just one point back of them for 10th with 47, while both Anaheim and Winnipeg have picked up the pace in recent weeks with 45. Yes, the playoff race is getting very tight indeed.
This Week's Schedule
Wednesday, January 20th - Minnesota Wild @ Anaheim Ducks 9:30 PM CT (NBCSN, SN)
Thursday, January 21st - Minnesota Wild @ Los Angeles Kings 9:30 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI, SN)
Saturday, January 23rd - Minnesota Wild @ San Jose Sharks 3:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Game of the Week
It's honestly a toss-up.
The Ducks have had an atrocious first half to the season, but are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, and just three points outside of a playoff spot. The Wild also have a history of coming up just one goal short whenever they play Anaheim. That game will also be aired nationally on NBC Sports. Los Angeles is arguably the team to beat in the Pacific, and they're always tough to play against. The Kings lead their division with 57 points, joining the Ducks with seven wins in their past 10 games. Then there are the Sharks, a team that is currently on a five-game win streak while holding down the Pacific's third seed with 48 points. It's always a tough task to collect two points from San Jose's Shark Tank.
Minnesota could very easily come home with zero points from this California road trip. At least they'll be warm.
Key Player of the Week
The Wild don't have a clue offensively, meaning it's once again time for Devan Dubnyk to sweep in and save the day. He's very much capable of doing so, having posted an 18-14-4 record, a 2.27 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts in 37 appearances this season. The hulking netminder will see two of Minnesota's three games at minimum, and the Wild's lone 2015-16 All-Star will have to be at his very best, especially if his team's scoring woes continue. We pray they don't.
Key Opponent of the Week
San Jose's Martin Jones leads the league in wins, and the club's captain, Joe Pavelski, is on a point-per-game pace with 43 points in as many games, but this week's key opponent is a familiar face - former Minnesota rear guard Brent Burns.
A versatile skater, Burns has settled in on defense this season, scoring incredible numbers for his position. In 43 games, the 2003 first rounder has 18 goals, 40 points, a negative-11 rating, six power play goals, 19 power play points and three game-winning goals while skating a nightly average of 26:10 per game. At 6'5" and 230-pounds, the bearded wonder is an intimidating force on the Sharks' blue line, and will look to make his mark against the club that drafted him. Minnesota fans just hope Charlie Coyle enters the game with the same attitude.