18 games to go and Wild have great shot to make the playoffs

Fans are going to get a kick of these Money Puck projections.
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Zach Parise

A 5-0 shutout win in Columbus has moved the Minnesota Wild to within one point of a playoff spot as they battle with four other teams in the Western Conference wild-card race. 

Entering play Saturday, Minnesota (71 points) is one point behind Nashville (72 points) for the second wild card, and just two points behind Calgary (73 points) for the top wild-card spot. Winnipeg (72 points) and Arizona (70 points) are also in the tight race. 

Less than a week ago the Wild were coming off a shutout loss at home to the St. Louis Blues, then saw the roster nearly crumble before the trade deadline as rumors of Zach Parise, who scored his 22nd goal of the season Friday night, was rumored to be the center of a trade that would've sent him to the New York Islanders. 

No trades were made, however, and the Wild responded with three convincing victories, all while tying the franchise record of 17 goals in a three-game span. Now things get much more difficult as they face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Sunday and what will arguably be the biggest game of the season Tuesday in St. Paul agains Nashville. 

"The schedule is going to get tougher the next couple of games, so that'll be the challenge to keep playing that same way on both sides of the puck," said Parise Friday night, via Wild.com. 

But if Minnesota can get through those games while staying tight in the wild-card race, they'll have a golden opportunity to rack up points with three California road games against the three worst teams in the conference, the Sharks, Kings and Ducks. 

Playoff-bound? According to Hockey Reference, the Wild and Predators have the best chances to win the wild-card spots. Meanwhile, Money Puck gives the Wild a 70% chance of making the playoffs. 

Want to feel crazy? Money Puck's projections also say the Wild have a 6.3% chance to win the Stanley Cup. That's the sixth-best chance in the NHL! 

Anyway, the Wild are breathing life into their season and everyone seems to be noticing. 

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