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Wilderness Walk: On Your Marks

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The Wild are about to sprint to the finish, the hunt for Lucia’s replacement is underway, and some interesting developments following the GMs meeting.

Minnesota Wild v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The playoffs are right around the corner. Some teams have already been mathematically eliminated (never say never until the math does first) and a few others have clinched a playoff appearance of some kind. For the rest, like the Minnesota Wild, this last push is all about reaching the playoffs, positioning, and trying to enter the playoffs healthy and with some momentum.

On that last part, it does feel like the Wild have struggled to really build up much momentum at any point in this season (at least positive momentum). It makes sense. This team hasn’t gone on any long winning streaks that have propelled them up the standings. Their best stretch of play was of the win-a-few-lose-one variety. Even with their recent three games in four days, which saw them take five of a possible six points, felt a little deflated with the last minute Los Angeles Kings goal that tied the game up followed up by an overtime loss.

I’d argue, however, that the Wild’s current performance is good news before the playoffs. While I won’t argue that the Wild are contending to be a Stanley Cup favorite, I will point out that in a best of seven series, winning two out of every three games will work. The Wild might not look scary but opposing coaches should be scared of Boudreau. He is correcting mistakes and keeping his team on course, righting the ship quickly after a loss. That gives the Wild the potential to be a tough out for anybody in the league. A deep playoff run will be a steep uphill climb. That’s the case for any team in the NHL. The Wild might actually have what it takes to scramble their way into a series victory or two.

Wild News

Up next for Wild: scoreboard watching, grueling practices
A lot of things would have to go wrong for the MN Wild (41-24-8, 90 points) to miss the NHL playoffs; they are six points clear of the Western Conference cut line with nine games to play. That said, the Wild could fall out of third place in the Central Division over the final two weeks if the Colorado Avalanche (40-25-8, 88 points) keep playing like they have.

Wild completes three-game, four-day stretch with five out of six points - StarTribune.com
From a bird's eye view, the past four days have been a resounding success for the Wild.

Wild will begin sprint to the finish in two days - StarTribune.com
The schedule won't let up over the final nine games.

Here's who the Wild faces coming down the stretch - StarTribune.com
The Wild's difficult schedule until the end of the regular season begins Saturday against the Nashville Predators.

On Frozen Pond

Hartman: Nanne says Gophers hockey job will draw top candidates - StarTribune.com
Ex-Gophers player and North Stars chief supports Don Lucia's decision to depart on his own terms.

Minnesota Hockey: Potential Coaching Candidates with Gopher Connections - The Daily Gopher
Here are the Minnesota alums and former assistants who may be up for the job

Off the Trail

Power Rankings: Rinne's run helps Predators reign supreme once again | The Hockey News
The Nashville Predators have continued their stretch of dominance thanks in large part to the play of Pekka Rinne. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames have plummeted down the Power Rankings.

NHL Power Rankings: 31 Billboards Outside Your City, NHL Edition - Sportsnet.ca
For this week's NHL Power Rankings, we toured all 31 hockey cities and discovered a billboard outside each one.

NHL GM meetings wrap: Vegas to be spared from a Seattle draft - Sportsnet.ca
The Vegas Golden Knights won't have to lose a player in a Seattle expansion draft because they’re not going to be sharing in the $650-million fee the Oak View Group will be asked to pay if/when the NHL accepts its application.

Takeaways: Goalie interference blunder part of Canadiens loss to Penguins - Sportsnet.ca
It was a game that featured eight goals and two penalty shots, and six breakaways, and 79 shots on net, and 64 hits, and a fight, and a linesman and a team trainer both cut and sent off for stitches on the same play.

GMs vote ‘overwhelmingly’ in favor of centralizing goaltender interference reviews | The Hockey News
At the meetings in Florida, NHL GMs voted to change the goaltender interference review process ahead of the playoffs to provide more predictability. GMs also got insight into next season’s salary cap and rules for potential future expansion.

Canada's NHL playoff hopes riding on two vastly different teams - Sportsnet.ca
With (hopefully) a few rounds of Canadian NHL playoff content on tap beginning in a few weeks, let’s take a look at what we have in the Leafs and Jets. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

The Best NHL Contracts On All 31 Teams (2018 Edition)
In a salary cap league, every dollar matters. Teams must be able to get as much value out of their players as possible. One valuable contract can free up cap space for future seasons and the best teams have several of these deals. Every team has a best contract, what is your favorite team's most valuable one?

Buffalo Sabres Casey Mittelstadt Has Some Decisions to Make
Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt finished his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. When will he turn pro and what are the options in front of him?

Donato’s debut hints at potential playoff impact for Bruins (and four other NHL hopefuls to watch) | The Hockey News
Boston thrust Ryan Donato into a top-six role sooner than anyone would have expected, but he was excellent in his three-point NHL debut. He’s not the only late-season addition who could make noise down the stretch, however.

Five MVP-calibre players who won't get a sniff of the Hart Trophy | The Hockey News
In any other season, these five players would be right in the thick of the MVP conversation, but a deep race has rendered them fringe candidates who might be unlikely to even finish inside the top 10 in voting.