Wild Vs. Coyotes Preview: Very Important Game For Phoenix, Minnesota Can Play Spoiler (Kind Of)

Mar 8, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Matt Hackett (31) makes a save on Phoenix Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker (89) during the shootout at Jobing.com Arena. The Wild defeated the Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

For more on the Minnesota Wild, go to Hockey Wilderness.

The only upside to a team on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and looking in is the potential to play spoiler. There's something about a fanbase of a losing team that gets oddly vindictive as the season drags on, causing them to only want to shaft everybody they possibly can before the season is over. On Saturday, the Minnesota Wild can't prevent a team from making the playoffs, but it can knock the Phoenix Coyotes out of the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Phoenix currently leads the Pacific Division and thus holds the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, just one point above the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, who occupy the No. 8 and No. 7 spots in the conference, respectively. If the Coyotes lose, the winner of San Jose/Los Angeles can take the division (though there are plenty of complicated tie breakers to deal with depending on overtime and things of that nature).

Of course, the team could place literally zero stock in playing spoiler at this point, but it's worth noting from a preview standpoint. As it stands, Minnesota has won two of three meetings thus far this season, both of those wins coming on the road. Phoenix took the second meeting, which was in St. Paul, a 4-2 win on New Year's Eve. The Wild will try and make sure the Coyotes don't even up the series.

It's been a very rough season for the Wild, who were at the top of the NHL and looking like they weren't ever going to slow down for about a month there. Now, with one game to go, it's all missed opportunities for a team that looked vastly improved on paper after key offseason deals with the Sharks to bring over Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley.

The Wild are 4-0-1 in its last five games, but it's been too little, too late. It's worth noting that their last three games have been shootout victories, while the prior two ended in overtime. This game is set for 8:00 p.m. eastern.

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