The Minnesota Wild concluded a stellar second half of March with
a victory over the Los Angeles Kings, and it seemed inevitable they
would be heading to their first postseason in five years.
Then came struggles in April and a home losing streak that could
become the worst in franchise history Tuesday night, leaving
Minnesota’s playoff fate in limbo as it meets a Kings team fighting
for home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Wild ended last month by winning eight of nine after a 4-3
shootout victory over Los Angeles on March 30 and were tied with
Vancouver atop the Northwest Division.
They have gone just 3-7-1 this month, including a 3-0 defeat at
Los Angeles on April 4, and are tied with Columbus for seventh in
the Western Conference – not far ahead of Detroit and Dallas.
Minnesota (24-18-3), which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs
since 2007-08, fell 5-1 to Calgary on Sunday for its fifth straight
home loss. The team hasn’t dropped six consecutive home games since
joining the NHL in 2000-01.
“Why should it not be hard for us? This is the first year that
we’re trying to get (to the playoffs) in five years,” coach Mike
Yeo said. “Its supposed to be hard for us. That’s part of the
Zach Parise scored his team-best 17th goal Sunday for the Wild,
who have scored only 19 this month while being held to two goals or
fewer eight times. They conclude the regular season by facing
Edmonton on Friday and West-worst Colorado on Saturday.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot, but we’re still in the
driver’s seat,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “It makes it more
difficult now, but we’ve just got to dig deeper.”
Los Angeles (26-14-5) already has wrapped up a postseason spot
and is 4-0-1 in its last five. Captain Dustin Brown had two goals
and Jeff Carter had two assists before scoring in overtime of a 4-3
win over Dallas on Sunday.
The Kings are in fourth place, two points ahead of San Jose for
home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They end the
season at home versus the Sharks on Saturday after visiting Detroit
“I just want us to take care of our own business, and who we
play is who we play,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “We’ve talked about
(home ice), but that’s the end result.”
Mike Richards, who had a goal and an assist Sunday, said the
most important thing is how well the Kings are playing leading up
to the playoffs.
“Every time you go into a playoff run where you’re kind of
stumbling a little bit, you don’t do as well as maybe as if you’re
going in there on a high note,” Richards told the team’s official
website. “We know what we’re capable of when we play well, and
we’ve been playing well lately.”
Jonathan Quick has started throughout Los Angeles’ current
five-game point streak while posting a 1.72 GAA. He’s 7-3-2 with a
2.62 GAA in 12 career starts versus the Wild after making 25 saves
in the shootout loss last month.
Minnesota could counter with Niklas Backstrom, who was pulled
after allowing goals on the first two shots he faced against the
Kings on April 4. He has a 3.75 GAA while going 2-2-0 in his last