After months of fighting for positioning, the Minnesota Wild have gotten hot at the right time.
On Tuesday night, the Wild can clinch a playoff spot by grabbing just a single point when they host the Boston Bruins.
Minnesota (41-26-12) has earned a point in five consecutive games, winning four of them. That run has put them seven points ahead of Dallas in the race for the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference and eight ahead of ninth-place Phoenix.
Ilya Bryzgalov has led the way lately, recording back-to-back shutouts to put the Wild on the brink of the postseason. He stopped 20 shots in a 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday and 24 – including 12 in the third period – in Monday’s 1-0 win at Winnipeg.
”They keep the game simple for me, let me see the shots,” Bryzgalov said of his teammates. ”They block a lot of shots. I just go on the ice and play hard to try to give the team a chance to win the game. The guys play in front of me unbelievable.”
With three games remaining, the Wild need just one point to lock up their playoff spot. Minnesota hasn’t gone three straight games without a point since losing six in a row Dec. 19-31.
Still, the Wild aren’t looking ahead to the postseason.
"Bryz is playing outstanding in the net right now, making some big stops for us at crucial times," forward Matt Moulson said. "We are taking it one game at a time and trying to build off of each game."
The Bruins (53-18-7) have already locked up home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs, clinching the conference’s top seed with their 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. Coach Claude Julien may opt to rest some of his key players for the final four regular-season games, though Boston still would like to win its first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990.
Winger Jarome Iginla and defenseman Kevan Miller both missed Saturday’s victory because of nagging injuries and are game-time decisions against the Wild.
"As we mentioned, we want to rest some players which you will probably see moving forward here with four games left," Julien said. "But we still have lots of goals."
Three of Boston’s final four games come on the road, where it’s lost back-to-back games.
"We’ve got to stay sharp, we’ve got to stay ready for that first game, whenever it may be," winger Shawn Thornton told the team’s official website. "We have four games to make sure we’re getting ready for the big dance. Obviously, everyone around here wants to start playoffs as soon as possible, but we have a week left, and we better continue to work on things that we can get better at."
Iginla scored a pair of goals in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Wild on March 17 while Tuukka Rask made 33 saves.
That was only Boston’s third win in 13 lifetime meetings. The Bruins have never scored a power-play goal against Minnesota, going 0 for 36, while the Wild have connected on 16 of 57 (28.1 percent) opportunities with the man advantage.