The Minnesota Wild have truly gotten themselves back into the thick of things in the NHL's Western Conference with their play over the last month or so. If the season ended today, the Wild would be the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs, as they have 72 points on the strength of a 33-23-6 record. But, as has been the case all season, the Western Conference is incredibly tightly bunched. . .the fourth team in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Coyotes, has 76 points, while the 13th team in the conference, the St. Louis Blues, has 65 points. So, as we progress through the season, the margin for error in the conference becomes smaller and smaller.
The Wild will have four chances to gain points this week, including three games against teams that they haven't seen this season.
The action starts tonight as the Wild will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks, as it stands today, have the same 72 points as the Wild do, but would be on the outside looking in at the playoff picture if the regular season ended today. There are two other teams that currently have 72 points as well. . .the Dallas Stars, who would be the number eight seed in the West if the season ended today, and the Nashville Predators, who would be out of the post-season. This is the fourth match-up between these two teams on the year, and Chicago has won two of those three. The Blackhawks won in Minnesota back on October 30 by a score of 3-1, and the Wild got a measure of revenge in Chicago on January 25 with a 4-2 victory. The Blackhawks held serve at home in the most recent get together, beating the Wild 3-1 in Chicago on February 16. The puck drops for tonight's game at 7:00 PM Central time, and can be seen as a national telecast on Versus. Check your cable listings for that one.
The Wild will then make a bit of an East Coast swing, as they will take on both New York teams. The first of these two games will happen on Wednesday, as the Wild will take on the New York Islanders. The Isles are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with their 54 points coming on the strength of a 23-32-8 record. This will be the only time these two teams will see each other this year. The action will get underway at 6:00 PM Central time, and you'll be able to see it on television on KSTC.
The next night, the Wild will stay in the Big Apple to take on New York's other team, the New York Rangers. The Rangers are a part of the playoff picture in the East, as they'd be the seventh seed in the East if the season ended today. They have 70 points, stemming from a 33-27-4 record. This will be the only match-up of the year between these two teams as well. This one will also get started at 6:00 PM Central, and the television coverage for this one will shift to Fox Sports North.
Finally, the Wild return home on Sunday to play host to the Buffalo Sabres. If the season ended today, Buffalo would be the last team out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, with their 65 points coming from a 29-25-7 record. Again, being an Eastern Conference team, this will be the only time the Sabres will see the Wild in 2010-11. This one will get going a little earlier, with the puck dropping in St. Paul at 5:00 PM Central time, and the coverage will jump back to KSTC.
You can also listen to all of these games on the radio by moving your AM dial to WCCO-AM 830.