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Can Wild still make NHL playoffs? ‘We know we have to bring it every night’

LAS VEGAS — The effort level was there for the Wild over the weekend. That hasn’t always been the case this season as a host of injuries has led to some inconsistent stretches.

That said, with future Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury being honored before, during and after Saturday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center, the Wild left everything out on the ice on their way to a rewarding 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now the Wild (23-23-5, 51 points) must find a way to channel that style of play for the final 30 games. As much as head coach John Hynes enjoyed being a part of Fleury’s milestone moment, he noted that it shouldn’t take a special occasion for the Wild to be at their best.

“It’s something we discuss with our team regularly,” Hynes said. “The motivation now is the playoffs.”

It’s not going to be easy considering where the Wild found themselves heading into Monday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

Looking at the standings before puck drop, the Wild trailed the St. Louis Blues by seven points in the race for the final playoff spot. Adding to the uphill climb is the fact that the Wild also trail the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken in the standings.

Not that the Wild are too fixated on the standings.

“We’re aware of them,” Hynes said. “We need to have a general idea of where we’re at and what it’s going to take to get there.”

The key is not being consumed by each win or each loss the rest of the way. That’s a recipe for disaster as the Wild find themselves in chase mode. That’s why winger Brandon Duhaime said he tries to avoid scoreboard watching as much as possible.

“I think our group has the same mentality every game,” Duhaime said. “It doesn’t really matter the circumstances. We’re in a good spot here. We’ve had a good couple of games and we need to continue getting better.”

Asked what he wants to see out of his players moving forward, Hynes referenced the effort level over the weekend. He loved that the Wild emptied the tank against the Penguins. That’s exactly what it’s going to take for the Wild to string together some wins.

“That’s why it’s hard to make the playoffs,” the coach said. “It’s the hardest league in the world.”

Though the Wild were without winger Marcus Foligno in Monday’s game against the Golden Knights, they got a boost with the return of center Connor Dewar. He suffered a lower-body injury last month and slowly has been working his way back to full strength.

“It’s hard to sit out,” Dewar said. “You watch the guys battle and compete, and can’t be out there helping them. You start to feel lonely. It’s been pretty difficult.”

His presence was expected to provide some energy near the bottom of the lineup. The key for the Wild will be maintaining that energy game in and game out.

“All of the 16 teams that get in (to the playoffs) find ways to summon that effort level more often than not,” Hynes said. “That’s what we have to get to down the stretch.”

If the Wild can do that, everything else will take care of itself.

“We’re all in the same boat these last 30 games,” Duhaime said. “We know we have to bring it every night.”

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