Four consecutive wins have the Minnesota Wild distancing themselves from the cluster of Western Conference teams below them battling for a playoff spot.
Extending it to five in a row Monday night at home against the Calgary Flames would give them their longest winning streak since capturing seven straight last March.
"That’s the most important thing, you look at the standings and those teams you are ahead of, you want to try and create some separation," Zach Parise told the team’s official website.
Minnesota (33-21-7) has also won five straight at home and a sixth would match a season-best run. With five of the Wild’s next six coming at home, they’re in position to create some separation.
Their two wins since returning from the Olympic break have come at Edmonton and Vancouver, and the Wild have been especially in-tune in the defensive zone, allowing four goals in four games. After shutting out Edmonton on Thursday, they beat the Canucks 2-1 in a shootout Friday.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 30 saves and an additional seven stops in the shootout a night after making 21 saves against the Oilers.
Kuemper has been in goal for each game on the winning streak, taking plenty of pressure off his teammates with a 0.97 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. He’s 10-3-2 this season and has played 14 straight games while filling in for Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and he’s winning over his teammates.
"It’s fun to watch him, he’s been getting better and better and playing with more and more confidence," said Parise, who scored in regulation to give him 11 points in seven games. "Shutout last night, big saves in regulation tonight, and then he was huge in the shootout."
One of Kuemper’s defeats came at the hands of the Flames, a 4-3 overtime loss on Feb. 1 in Calgary. Flames center Mikael Backlund scored twice, including in overtime.
The teams are entering their final regular-season matchup and have split two games this season with the Wild winning 5-1 in Minnesota on Nov. 5.
Calgary (23-30-7) is looking for a streak of its own after winning 2-1 in overtime at Edmonton on Saturday in a matchup of the two worst teams in the West.
"I thought we did a good job, we had a lot of chances," Flames captain Mark Giordano told the team’s official website. "Our defense did a good job of beating them up ice and our forwards were making great plays. We don’t like giving up that point, but I thought we played a great game, stuck with it and got rewarded."
Rookie Sean Monahan scored both goals and Reto Berra, shouldering the load with Karri Ramo sidelined by a knee injury, had 21 saves as the Flames won their seventh in 10 games.
"One thing we have learned about (Monahan) is that he doesn’t miss too many of those chances around the net," said Giordano of his teammate, who scored on his only two shots. "He has a knack for putting those ones in. Good on him. I am happy for him."
In four games since Ramo went down, Berra is 2-2-0 with a 1.51 GAA and .941 save percentage.