Wild leap over logjam, return to playoff spot
With just one game to go before the All-Star break, the Minnesota Wild are back in playoff position.
The Stars and Avalanche occupy the Western Conference’s two wild-card spots with 51 points, part of a major logjam near the bottom of the standings.
Just six points separate the Wild and the St. Louis Blues — currently 13th in the West, overall — who have returned to the playoff picture after rattling off three straight wins last week.
St. Louis (47 points), Arizona (48 points) and Edmonton (49 points) are all within striking distance of a wild-card spot, while Vancouver (52 points) is tied with Colorado and Dallas after winning two straight.
With Nashville (62 points) and Central Division leader Winnipeg (64 points) comfortably in the division’s first two playoff spots, the Wild have little room for error.
Another wrinkle: The Wild visit the Avalanche on Wednesday in their final game before the break, then visit Dallas in their first game back, on Feb. 1., a pair of games that could have major implications down the line.
One reason for optimism: goaltender Devan Dubnyk is once again playing well, and has allowed just three goals in his last three games, even as the offense continues to struggle.
First-year general manager Paul Fenton has been active in the lead-up to the trade deadline, adding a little firepower in the form of former Anaheim Ducks winger Pontus Aberg, while also dealing away winger Nino Niederreiter for center Victor Rask.
He added some depth to the blue line with his latest move, acquiring defenseman Brad Hunt from Vegas on Monday.
But regardless of whether or not Fenton’s deadline plans include a playoff push, the Wild appear likely to remain in the hunt the rest of the way.