Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 on 3: The Final Two Games

Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images
The Wild are set to take on the Blues tonight in their second to last regular season game of the season. The Wild locked up a playoff spot and the top wild card position on Tuesday. Lets break out some three on three for the final two games.
  • With no chance of moving up or down in the standings anymore, the final two games gives the Wild a chance to rest some players who are battling some minor injuries. At this time of year, you need a healthy roster to give yourself a chance to go far in the postseason, and the Wild have an opportunity to give some of their players a chance to get back to full strength with the playoffs starting next week.
  • Tonight, highly touted college free agent, Christian Folin will get to make his NHL debut thanks in large part due to the fact the Wild are locked in to their position in the standings. Giving Folin a chance to play in these last two games will give him a chance to see what he needs to work on this summer and then come back to training camp and battle for a spot on the Wild roster.
  • The team has some areas that need improvement heading into the postseason, and these final two games would be a great use of time to fine tune those areas. Penalty kill (which has been torched by good teams lately) is a good example of an area that needs fine tuning. Another thing that could use work, but probably won't get worked on, is drop passes right inside the blue line (if those go away all together that would be nice).

  • Should the team choose to sit some of their key players (indications for tonight are that they will not, sans Bryzgalov), players could develop a little rust. You do not want to have rusty players hitting the ice in Game One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially considering the Wild will be matched up with either the winner of the Central Division (STL/COL) or the Anaheim Ducks (Pacific Division winner).
  • However, should the Wild continue to roll with their key players in the final games, there is a risk of players getting injured. With the Blues on the schedule tonight, they pose as the biggest threat to this risk of injury due to their physical play. It could also just be a shot off the foot, leg, etc that gives a player an injury that could cause them to miss time.
  • Despite the outstanding play of Ilya Bryzgalov lately, the Wild still are very thin in the goaltending department. Behind Bryzgalov is John Curry (tonight's scheduled starter), as Darcy Kuemper is still out with an upper body injury. The Wild's two goalies to enter the year, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, are both done for the year leaving the net to Bryzgalov in the playoffs.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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