After blowing their first chance to clinch a playoff berth, the Minnesota Wild’s postseason fate has come down to what they hope is not the last game of their season.
Looking to bounce back from an embarrassing defeat, the Wild can still make the playoffs for the first time in five years with a road victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
Minnesota (25-19-3) has less than 24 hours to regroup from Friday’s 6-1 home loss to Edmonton, which had lost nine of 10 and won’t be in the postseason.
The Wild own the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference despite being tied with Columbus at 53 points because they own the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets. Additionally, Minnesota is one point behind seventh-place Detroit.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to happen, but we’re still in a good place,” said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter whose team has been outscored 17-5 while losing three of four. “We win and we’re in the playoffs. That was our goal to get in the playoffs, and once you get in the playoffs you set another goal.
“We still control our own destiny here and we have to go in there and play our best game of the season.”
A victory at Colorado (16-24-7) would send Minnesota to the postseason for the first time since 2008. A win coupled with any type of loss by the Red Wings at Dallas would give the Wild the No. 7 seed. If Columbus suffers a regulation loss at home to Nashville on Saturday, Minnesota would qualify regardless of its result.
However, if Detroit earns a point, Columbus wins and the Wild lose, Minnesota would be eliminated.
“I’ve got total confidence in our group to play that game (Saturday),” said coach Mike Yeo, whose club was blown out despite outshooting the Oilers 39-17. “This one hurts, but I’ve seen this group respond enough, I’ve seen our leadership enough to still feel confident.”
Yeo will start Niklas Backstrom who was pulled Friday after allowing three goals on five shots in 18 minutes.
“I’ve got total confidence in Backy to play that (Saturday),” Yeo said.
Backstrom posted a 2.94 goals-against average while Minnesota totaled 18 goals in going 3-0-1 against the Avalanche this season.
Devin Setoguchi has four points without a goal in his last 14, but he scored twice and added an assist in a 6-4 win at Colorado on March 16 in these teams’ last meeting. Suter had a goal and an assist in that game but enters this matchup pointless in a season-high four straight.
Though the Avalanche will miss the postseason for a third straight year, they are 4-2-2 in their last eight with three wins over playoff-bound teams. In a 5-4 victory at Phoenix on Friday, P.A. Parenteau had a goal with an assist, Matt Duchene had three assists and both scored in the shootout.
The Avalanche prevailed even though they trailed 2-0 and blew a lead in the third period.
“It’s a good test of character for these guys and they responded well,” coach Joe Sacco said.
Parenteau and Duchene have combined for four goals and five assists against the Wild in 2013.