An impressive win their last time out pushed the Minnesota Wild to the brink of clinching a playoff spot, something they can accomplish with a regulation or overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.
Minnesota tries to secure a second straight postseason berth for the second time in team history as it looks to extend its timely 3-0-1 surge, though the eliminated Jets played spoiler in their last game.
The Wild (40-26-12) defeated Metropolitan Division champion Pittsburgh 4-0 on Saturday to snap a season-high three-game home skid. Wild captain Mikko Koivu scored one of his club’s three goals in the opening period and Ilya Bryzgalov needed to make only 20 saves in his third shutout of the season.
"I think we want to keep working on our game. You want to play well going into the playoffs," forward Erik Haula said. "I think we have good teams left to play here. It’s going to be test. It’ll for sure get us prepared."
Minnesota is six points ahead of Phoenix with four games to play for both teams. The Wild have three more non-shootout wins than the Coyotes and own the second tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series 2-1-0.
Minnesota is on the verge of punching its ticket to the playoffs because of its recent road play, going 4-1-2 in the last seven. The Wild close out their road schedule Monday, and they may be very motivated to clinch against Winnipeg with games against Boston and St. Louis – the leaders in their respective conferences – following this contest.
While the Jets (35-34-10) were knocked from contention with a loss to the Penguins on Thursday, they dealt Toronto’s fading playoff hopes a blow with a 4-2 road victory Saturday. Tobias Enstrom provided the tiebreaking power-play goal late in the second period.
"They sat down and decided what was important for them in the final four games. They brought a tremendous amount of effort. I’m really proud of them, and I’m hopeful," coach Paul Maurice said. "Those are the things I like most about this team since I got here.
"They’ve got a lot of competitiveness, and they really do care. I think that’s the best sign that we have."
The Jets will have Evander Kane back in the lineup after he was benched in Toronto. It wasn’t his first time as a healthy scratch. Former coach Claude Noel also benched the left winger.
Minnesota has won three of four in this season’s series but has one win in three all-time visits to Winnipeg. That came Nov. 23, a 3-2 shootout victory in which the Wild got a short-handed goal from Zach Parise with 4:55 remaining to force overtime.
Minnesota fell 6-4 in its most recent contest at the MTS Centre on Dec. 27, as Blake Wheeler’s second goal of the game with 9:20 remaining broke a tie and was the game winner.
"It’s a tough building to play in. They’re playing good hockey right now. It’s been good battles this year against that team," Koivu said. "It’s the last road game of the year so we want to finish on a good note."
Koivu has a team-best four points (three goals, one assist) in the season series and four goals and seven assists in his last nine matchups.
Maurice says the Jets will be without forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd on Monday, and that Byfuglien is out for the rest of the season with a torn muscle.