GLENDALE, Ariz. — With one more win, the Minnesota Wild will set a franchise record with its 49th victory. With one more point, the Wild will set a franchise record for points with its 105th.
“Obviously, we’re doing something right this season. We keep winning games,” center Mikael Granlund said. “But we want something more from this season.”
The Wild appeared to have a lock on the Central Division title and the Western Conference’s top overall seed before a disastrous March in which it went 4-10-2. That allowed the Chicago Blackhawks to climb past Minnesota and secure the Central Division title and top conference seed, relegating the Wild to the No. 3 overall seed in the West.
Minnesota has won three straight games heading into its season finale against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at Gila River Arena. The hope is that the bad run is over and the Wild is ready to get make a deep playoff run for the first time since 2003 when it advanced to the conference finals, its furthest advance in 16 seasons of existence.
“We knew we were going to turn things around,” left winger Charlie Coyle said. “We started to do that, kind of got back to our game. It’s good to do that at the right time here to enter the playoffs confident. We want to keep building to get to the top of our game. That’s going to be key.”
Saturday’s game will mark the return to Arizona of former Coyote Martin Hanzal, who spent nearly 10 seasons with the franchise before Arizona shipped him to Minnesota at this year’s trade deadline. Hanzal had lunch with former Coyotes teammates and fellow Czechs Radim Vrbata and Zbynek Michalek on Friday, and the three were looking forward to one last on-ice reunion before Michalek, whose contract expires in June, will likely leave the NHL to play in Europe.
“He’s only been gone a month, but it will be good to see Marty,” said Vrbata, who reached the 20-goal plateau for the sixth time in his career in a win over Vancouver on Thursday. “I’m sure it will be the same for him as it was for me when I was playing in Vancouver and came back here. I imagine he will feel the same weird feeling, especially for the first time.”
Saturday’s game could also mark the final game of Coyotes captain Shane Doan’s 21-season career, all with the same franchise.
“I really don’t know,” said Doan, who has not set a timeline for making his decision. “I truly wish I did. It would make everything so much easier to be able to give a definitive answer. There’s a chance I come back and play; there’s a chance I don’t.”
Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower body) will not play, but right winger Chris Stewart (sick) is expected to rejoin the team, allowing a regular forward to rest. That forward is expected to be Granlund.
The Coyotes are healthy heading into their final game other than center Brad Richardson (leg), who has been out since November, and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who returned home to Sweden after the death of his mother.
Mike Smith will start in goal for Arizona. Darcy Kuemper will start for Minnesota.