National Hockey League
Wild-Jets Preview
National Hockey League

Wild-Jets Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 9:51 p.m. ET

After hitting a bit of a roadblock this week, the Minnesota Wild appear to have an opportunity to get on track as they chase a fourth straight playoff appearance.

The Winnipeg Jets have one of the league's worst records, but Blake Wheeler has led a club that has given the Wild all they can handle over the past two seasons.

Needing a win and some help to clinch a playoff spot, visiting Minnesota will try to avoid its third straight loss overall and sixth in seven meetings with Winnipeg on Sunday night.

A six-game winning streak gave the Wild a decent cushion in the race for the Western Conference's final wild-card berth, but that momentum has dissipated following a 3-2 home loss to Ottawa on Thursday and a 3-2 defeat at Detroit on Friday.


Zach Parise scored five of the team's 14 goals over the last three games of its run before Minnesota struggled offensively in the past two. That caused interim coach John Torchetti to move Mikael Granlund to the top line with Parise and Mikko Koivu. Charlie Coyle was shifted to the second line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker.

The Wild could utilize that look more since Torchetti seemed to like the results.

"That (Granlund) line was getting a couple of looks (after the change)," he told the team's official website. "Charlie did a really good job playing at center; he was so big and strong, and getting us a little more puck possession, and getting us some possession coming out of our d-zone with his size and strength."

With three games left for Minnesota and four for Colorado, the Wild own a five-point lead over the Avalanche in the race for the second wild-card spot. They can wrap up the playoff berth Saturday with a victory and a Colorado home loss to St. Louis.

''Now we go to Winnipeg and see what happens," Granlund said.

Minnesota (38-30-11), though, could have a difficult time doing its part. The club has totaled just one goal in dropping the past two meetings with Central Division-worst Winnipeg (31-39-8) and has gone 1-4-1 in the series since February 2015.

Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson has four wins in his last 25 games but is 3-2-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average in seven career outings against the Wild.

Wheeler has been a thorn in Minnesota's side, totaling three goals and seven points in the last five meetings. The right wing also has four goals and 10 points over a seven-game point streak after scoring twice in Friday's 5-4 home loss to Chicago.

Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and two assists and Mark Scheifele added two assists. Scheifele has three goals and six assists over a six-game point streak.

The Jets, however, are trying to stay out of the conference cellar following a four-game losing streak.

"Byfuglien and Wheeler (are) playing exceptionally well and exceptionally hard," coach Paul Maurice told the team's official website. "This has been an exceptionally difficult thing to go through. It's been a long run here. It speaks volumes to their leadership and how driven they are. They come to the rink, they come to play every night in a really tough situation."

Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who sustained a lower-body injury on Thursday and did not play in Detroit, is day-to-day.


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