Since slipping from a playoff spot last week, the Wild has had to worry about hurdling just one team — the Coyotes — to regain the second wild card seed in the Western Conference.
The Wild can keep the focus squarely on Arizona, if it keeps Colorado at bay. That opportunity arrives Tuesday, when the Wild wraps up its season-long five-game homestand at Xcel Energy Center against an Avalanche squad it leads it by just three points with nine games to go.
“We have to play with desperation knowing that every point matters, every shift matters,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “You can’t afford to be flat for anything.”
At 1-2-1, this stint in St. Paul has been more harmful than helpful.
Arizona leapfrogged the Wild after Minnesota opened the homestand with a 3-0 loss to San Jose on March 11. The Coyotes added some breathing room when the Wild sleepwalked through a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
That setback seemed to serve as a wake-up call, and the Wild received more urgency and effort during last weekend’s back-to-back to mixed results: It won 5-2 over the Rangers on Saturday before its rally against the Islanders fell short 3-2 in overtime Sunday.
“Coming off that Dallas game, I think the mood in here is a lot different,” winger Zach Parise said. “I know we didn’t get that extra point [Sunday], but we have to like the way we played. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get it. But we did a lot of good things.”
Because Arizona has jumped the Wild, this matchup with the Avalanche is Minnesota’s last against a team currently below it in the standings.
The Wild returns to the road later this week, where it’s had most of its success this season. But prevailing at home against Colorado, to keep the Avalanche safely in its rearview mirror, also would help it catch the Coyotes.
“We have a good team when we work hard,” Suter said. “This team gets rewarded when we do work hard because we don’t have that pure goal scorer. It’s about work ethic, and when we show up and work hard, good things usually happen.”