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Winning three out of four games lifted the Wild within two points of a playoff spot but losing three in four plummeted them eight back.

Welcome to the Western Conference wild-card race, where climbing is like crawling and a slip is practically a spiral.

Just ask the Wild.

"It's tight," center Frederick Gaudreau said. "This league is so good. Every team is so good."

Victories against Vancouver, Edmonton and Seattle capped off an impressive 7-1-1 run out of the All-Star break, but the 15 points the Wild banked netted them only a five-point gain in the standings.

But when they dropped three in a row, they moved another six points back of the playoff pace.

Outlasting San Jose 4-3 on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center to end their skid didn't even make up any ground; the slump-buster only prevented them from falling further behind.

And their deficit is likely to grow: While they're idle until Thursday when they play at Arizona, all their competition will be in action at least once, and two teams — Seattle and Calgary — will go head-to-head.

What does this mean for the Wild and their flickering playoff hopes?

They're facing an extremely uphill battle to get back into contention that probably requires some help along the way.

"We're not out of this thing," rookie defenseman Brock Faber said. "We have confidence that we're a team that can do it."

This is a six-team sprint, and the Wild are near the back of the pack.

With 72 points apiece, Los Angeles and Nashville occupy the West's two wild-card seeds. Then there's Calgary (65), St. Louis (65), the Wild (64) and Seattle (63).

The Kings aren't too far away from third place in the Pacific Division, so they could get promoted and the likes of the Golden Knights or Oilers could join the mix. But the Predators are the team to watch.

They have won eight in a row, a tear that included walloping the Wild 6-1 last Thursday.

Also on the rise are the Flames, who are on a five-game winning streak.

Still, five consecutive wins doesn't lead to much separation.

To achieve that, a team has to play like Nashville is: Before going 8-0, the Predators were on the outside looking in, four points below the playoff cutline. Now, they seem like a lock.

NHL standings

"It's a matter of just keeping the right mindset," Gaudreau said, "and that's not focusing on who's ahead of us and who's behind and trying to get back in the race. It's just about us and how we approach each game."

How other teams are doing does become irrelevant if the Wild don't take care of their own business, and that opportunity isn't going away.

They'll get to square off against all the teams they're jostling with at least once except Calgary. What's more, the Wild are believed to have one of the easiest schedules remaining in the NHL.

Of their final 20 games, six are against the worst five teams in the league, whereas the Predators have four of those matchups and the Flames five.

Bottom line, the Wild need points — a lot of them — and they would benefit from the teams surrounding them sinking into a dry spell.

Neither, however, is guaranteed.

"We just need to keep fighting to get more points," goaltender Filip Gustavsson said, "and see where it takes us."