After a week of playing against teams out of the Western Conference playoff picture, the Wild will see six of their next seven games against teams currently sitting in postseason spots. It begins tonight against the Avalanche, who romped to a 7-1 win when these teams met 11 days ago. Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon had himself a night with two goals and five points.
The Wild are on 85 points and reside in the third spot in the Central Division, but the Dallas Stars (82 points) and Avs (80) are right on their tail. Now is not a time for a March swoon.
“We know every point matters (over the course of the season),” said Mikko Koivu via the Pioneer Press. “That said, it’s a different feeling playing a game in March. … It’s a good feeling to come to the rink. It’s all business this time of the season.”
With wins over Minnesota by scores of 7-2 and 7-1 this season, the Avs might feel a bit confident heading into tonight’s game with big playoff race implications. Semyon Varlamov will likely get the start in goal as he searches for his first win since that rout on March 2. His last three starts have not gone well as he’s allowed 11 goals in three overtime losses.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
With Jonathan Bernier sidelined after taking a puck to the head following his return on Saturday, the Avs need Varlamov to get his game right with a month to go in the regular season. Just as the Wild have teams nipping at their heels, Colorado is clinging to the final wild card spot with Anaheim, St. Louis and Calgary all within striking distance.
“(Varlamov) has been great,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said via the Denver Post. “He had some time off when he re-tweaked his groin there midseason (with) three weeks or so off. He’s been getting lots of rest on practice days, so he looks good and feels good. Not a problem there for him carrying the load right now.”