The gloves are off as the race for the playoffs gets down to the wire. The Minnesota Wild currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 32 wins, 74 points and a game in hand on the ninth place Colorado Avalanche. Behind them, the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks have slim playoff hopes with 67 and 66 points, respectively. Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton split three-way possession of the conference cellar. Both 5-5 in their last 10 games, Minnesota and Colorado are racing to the finish line for a date with one of the heads of the Central's three-headed monster (Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago).
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, March 15th - Minnesota Wild @ Ottawa Senators 6:30 PM CT (FS-N)
Thursday, March 17th - Minnesota Wild @ New Jersey Devils 6:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Saturday, March 19th - Minnesota Wild vs Carolina Hurricanes 1:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Sunday, March 20th - Minnesota Wild @ Chicago Blackhawks 7:30 PM CT (NBCSN)
Game of the Week
Chicago isn't exactly happy with the outcome of its last encounter with Minnesota. Don't expect similar results to last month's Stadium Series thrashing of the defending Cup champs. This time Chicago has Minnesota right where they want them - on United Center ice. The Blackhawks are loaded for bear and are heavy favorites for their fourth championship in seven seasons. Throw in the fact they have the league's leading scorer, and that the game is being aired on national television, and you have your GOTW.
Key Player of the Week
Statistically, Mikael Granlund is on his way to his best season yet in one respect. Minnesota's 2010 top pick collected his first multi-goal game Saturday night for his career-best ninth and tenth goals in a season. It's an improvement, but not by much, and there's no question the organization expects much more from the once highly touted Finn. That said, he has taken a step back in assists, and has also seen his plus-minus rating plummet from a plus-17 in 68 games last season to a negative-11 in 69 games thus far. Granlund has yet to develop chemistry with recent line mates, but has seen significant time with Thomas Vanek. Hopefully the two can spark each other in the right direction.
Key Opponent of the Week
You know him. You loathe him. Yep, Patrick Kane. The league's most polarizing player leads the next closest skater (Jamie Benn) by 12 points in one fewer game played with 38 goals, 89 points, a plus-19 rating, 15 power play goals, 32 power play points, seven game-winning goals, a 15.8% shooting percentage and a league-best 1.29 points-per-game average.
Honorable Mention: Did you know Ottawa's Erik Karlsson has 12 goals and 70 points in 70 games? The Senators defenseman also leads all skaters with an average nightly ice-time of 29:04.