Wild plays at Pittsburgh as three-team race atop Central resumes

PITTSBURGH — The Wild started the week sitting alone atop the Central Division, but that's no longer the case.

They've been demoted to third as part of a three-way tie for first place with Colorado and Dallas. All three teams have 98 points, and all three will be in action on Thursday with the Wild facing off against the Penguins at Pittsburgh.

The Stars play the Flyers, while the Avalanche take on the Sharks.

"Doesn't matter that we've clinched a playoff spot," coach Dean Evason said. "When the puck's dropped, we need to play the exact same way in order to stay as sharp as we can."

Former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will start in net, the only lineup change the Wild are making from their 4-3 shootout loss to Vegas on Monday.

Gustav Nyquist (shoulder injury) is a possibility for Saturday's game, and Evason said the team does have a return in mind for Kirill Kaprizov (lower-body injury).

"I'm not going to disclose that," Evason said, "but certainly we want him to play a game or games before we get to the playoffs."

None of their regulars will take a break to rest vs. Pittsburgh, but that is a situation the Wild will monitor the rest of the way; the team wraps up the regular season next Thursday at Nashville.

"We obviously want to continue to play the way that we can play and have success and be on a roll when you get there," Evason said, referring to the playoffs. "But we do think it's important to be healthy."

Projected lineup

Sam Steel-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Marcus Johansson-Joel Eriksson Ek-Matt Boldy

Marcus Foligno-Frederick Gaudreau-Oskar Sundqvist

Brandon Duhaime-Connor Dewar-Ryan Reaves

Jake Middleton-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Jon Merrill-John Klingberg

Marc-Andre Fleury

Key numbers

2: Goals for Joel Eriksson Ek vs. the Penguins earlier this season.

4-3: Record for Fleury in seven starts against Pittsburgh.

10-2-4: Record for the Wild since March 1.

13: Goals by Matt Boldy since March 11 to lead the NHL in that span.

99: Career points for Boldy.

Team statistics, win probability, betting info

About the Penguins

Pittsburgh is one point out of a playoff spot, trailing the Islanders for the last wild card seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have made the playoffs the last 16 years, which is the longest active streak among the major North American sports leagues. All four of their final four games are against a team in a playoff position, beginning with the Wild. But Pittsburgh has had success in this match. The Penguins are 7-0-1 in their last eight against the Wild and 6-1-1 over the past eight at PPG Paints Arena.