Sunday, March 2, 2014

Down The Stretch

Its a long road to the playoffs for the Wild. Photo: Ben Nelms/Getty Images
Take a good look at the standings folks. Just sit there and appreciate that nice little cushion the Minnesota Wild have built for themselves in the Wild Card spot as they enter the final 21 games of the 2013-14 season. Because when they hit that 82 game mark, they will probably be thanking their lucky stars they had that seven point advantage over the second spot.

Following tomorrow's game against the Calgary Flames (holder of the second worst record in the West), the Wild open up a schedule that is not to be taken lightly one bit. They will find themselves playing 14 out of those 20 remaining games against teams who are currently holding down a playoff spot. And of the six teams (Edmonton, Columbus, NY Islanders, New Jersey, Phoenix, and Nashville) on the schedule who are not in a playoff spot, only two of them (Edmonton and NY Islanders) are not in contention for the playoffs.

So basically, the Wild are about to play 18 of 21 games against teams who are still alive in the playoff chase.

Also in the month of March, the Wild face a seven game stretch where they play Eastern Conference opponents, including Boston and Detroit (twice), giving them a nice little break from the uber-tough Western Conference (also worth noting that the Wild are only 12-9-2 vs the East this year).

If they can come out of March with their heads held high, an even more vicious April schedule awaits them.

In the month of April, the Wild have six games on the schedule. The schedule goes at Chicago, Pittsburgh, at Winnipeg, Boston, St. Louis, and Nashville.

Four of those six games are against teams (CHI, PIT, BOS, STL) who are expected to make deep playoff runs this year The other two (WPG, NSH) are divisional opponents who will be trying to lock down a final wild card spot against the Wild.

The Wild are in position to lock down a second consecutive postseason appearance for the first time since 2007 and 2008. But the road to doing so is incredibly treacherous.

With the trade deadline this week, it would be hard to see Chuck Fletcher standing pat. Whether that's acquiring a goalie or a depth positional player to just bolster the roster in the event of injury, we should be seeing a new face or two in a Wild uniform this week.

Go back and look at those standings folks. Because its a good bet that cushion will be non-existent when the regular season comes to a conclusion in April.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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