|Photo: Sherri LaRose-Chiglo/Pioneer Press|
But now that the NHL is returning, lets take a little refresher course on the Wild, as they get set to begin the stretch run.
Currently, the Wild sit fourth in the Central Division and are ten points behind third place Colorado. With the way the Avs have played this year, it would take a significant run by the Wild to even catch them this year, so it appears that Minnesota will have to rely on the Wild Card spot to get into the playoffs. And if the playoffs were to start today, the Wild, holder of the top Wild Card spot, would get a matchup with the division leader with fewer points. In this case, that team would be St. Louis.
Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu have both missed a good amount of time this year due to injury (Koivu's status for the game Thursday is still up in the air), which has lead to Jason Pominville being the leading scorer on the Wild so far this year. Ryan Suter has double the amount of points than the next closest defenseman on the team, and is taking a run at the team record for most points by a defenseman in one season (46-Brent Burns, 2010-11). Mikael Granlund finished the pre-Olympic break on a tear, scoring six points in five games and then ended up netting seven points in five Olympic games.
Somehow, only three goalies have taken the net for Minnesota this year. Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom have missed significant time, leaving Darcy Kuemper as the team's number one guy in the net. Thankfully, Kuemper has answered the call, helping the Wild to a 11-4-2 record since the calendar flipped to 2014. Coming out of the break, it would appear that Kuemper will resume the role of number one goaltender with Backstrom backing him up and Harding still on injured reserve. One has to wonder if Harding will see the ice again this year, which is a shame, because he was putting up Vezina worthy numbers.
Of the Wild's remaining 23 games this season, only four of those games will come against teams who have worse puck possession numbers than the Wild (Oilers-twice, Flames, and Islanders). Those four teams are also the only teams left on the Wild schedule, who truly have been ousted from the playoff race. So the 19 other games are coming against teams in the postseason or teams who are still very much alive in the postseason race. That is certainly not good news for Mike Yeo, who has watched his team limp across the finish line in each of his first two seasons here (10-14-4 finish in 2011-12, 8-9-1 finish in 2012-13). The team's first game back is Thursday in Edmonton.
The Wild were a banged up hockey team heading into the Olympics. But as they come out of the break, they are a much healthier hockey club. Josh Harding will begin the post-Olympic break on injured reserve due to his symptoms. Mikko Koivu had that foot surgery which has kept him out since early January, but it appears he will be back here within the first week of games resuming. Jason Zucker will miss the first week after having a procedure on his leg right at the beginning of the break. After injuring his leg just prior to the break, Marco Scandella appears to be close to returning but whether or not he plays on Thursday is still up in the air.
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