The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild both need a victory in Friday's battle in D.C. -- but they're needed for different reasons.
Washington picked up a point in a 5-4 overtime loss at home to Tampa Bay on Wednesday. That gave Washington, the leader in the Metropolitan Division, 94 points. But the Capitals can ill afford to ease up, with the New York Islanders only three points back and the Pittsburgh Penguins five points back.
Minnesota fell 3-1 at home to Colorado on Tuesday, leaving the Wild one point out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference entering Thursday.
The Capitals lost twice to the Lightning in the past week but gave the best team in the league a battle both times. However, Washington also lost defenseman Michal Kempny with what the team described as a lower-body injury in Wednesday's game. He appeared to hurt his leg when going down awkwardly, and Washington coach Todd Reirden told reporters the team would know more about the situation in the next day or two.
"I think, at this point, it's safe to say he's going to miss some time," Reirden said.
Still, there were plenty of positives for Washington to take away from the game Wednesday. The Caps set a team record for shots in a game (58) and held a 30-shot edge over the Lightning.
Despite the loss, Reirden loved his team's effort.
"We came out exactly how we wanted to start the game," he said. "We had lots of chances, lots of good things. The effort was outstanding. It said a lot about our character, if you ask me."
The Wild are looking for some good things down the stretch while trying to work their way into the Western Conference playoffs under former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau.
Minnesota is stuck in a late-season slump, dropping five of its last six games while scoring no more than two goals in any of the losses. Zach Parise scored the only Minnesota goal against the Avalanche, a power-play score that tied the game at 1-1 two minutes into the second period.
Parise also said that his teammates have to keep battling since they're still so close to a postseason bid.
"We can't (get frustrated)," he told the team's website. "If we do that, we might as well throw the season away. We don't have a lot of time to do that and feel bad. Hopefully, we can scoreboard watch and get some help maybe. Let's see if we can correct things offensively before the games on the weekend."
Boudreau said after the loss that he also was concerned with the offensive problems the team has battled this season. The Wild enter Thursday ranked 24th in the NHL in goals scored (199), something not typical of a Boudreau-coached team. More offense down the stretch could be a big lift as Minnesota fights for that playoff spot.
"This year we haven't been able to score when we needed to score," Boudreau said. "We've had great looks and great opportunities to score, but (haven't done it)."
--Field Level Media