With the Western Conference playoff race getting tighter than ever, the Wild can take a big step toward the postseason with a win over Los Angeles tonight.
As it stands, ninth-place Detroit is just one point behind seventh-place Minnesota. Each team has three games left. Also in the mix: 10th-place Dallas, who are three points behind the Wild -- with three games to go.
Just a few weeks ago, the Wild were battling Vancouver for the Northwest Division title. But Minnesota's 3-7-1 stretch in April basically handed the Canucks the division for a fifth consecutive season.
Minnesota (24-18-3), which hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 2007-08, has lost five straight home games, tying a club record. The team hasn't dropped six straight home games since joining the NHL in 2000-01.
Why are the Wild in this position, especially with high-priced free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the fold?
Star Tribune writer Chip Scoggins says it's a matter of other players stepping up: "Cal Clutterbuck has three goals in 39 games. Devin Setoguchi has not scored a goal since March 29. Kyle Brodziak ranks near the bottom of the NHL in plus-minus rating at minus-15."
Yesterday, the Wild made a few moves to beef up the lineup for the playoff push. Veteran forwards Stephane Veillieux and Jake Dowell were called up from Houston, with rookies Mikael Granlund and Jazon Zucker sent down.
Niklas Backstrom starts in goal tonight, and he’ll have a familiar backup. Josh Harding is up from Houston after a two-game rehab stint. Harding -- who is fighting MS -- says he’s “just happy to be back.”