Do you feel that State of Hockey?
It’s not the sun finally shining down on your face (although that feels pretty good, too). No, Minnesota has Stanley Cup Playoffs fever in the air.
The Wild has control of its own postseason destiny and can lock up a spot in the top-8 of the Western Conference against Northwest Division foe, Edmonton Oilers. With realignment kicking in next season, it will be the final time the Wild and Oilers face off as division rivals.
This season, the Wild has had Edmonton’s number and looks to complete the sweep of the four-game series with a victory tonight. Eliminated from the playoffs for the seventh-straight year, the Oilers will come into Xcel Energy Center as a loose team, with nothing to lose looking to play the roll of spoilers.
“Loose and that kind of skill level,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate. “Our focus has to be on ourselves.”
The Wild will get a boost from winger Mike Rupp, who returns to the lineup after missing five games with a lower-body injury. He’ll skate on the checking line with Zenon Konopka and Jake Dowell.
Out against Edmonton will be Jason Pominville, who suffered an upper-body injury on an elbow delivered by the Kings’ Dustin Brown. Pominville didn’t participate in the team’s morning skate and is considered day-to-day.
Moving onto a line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be Torrey Mitchell. Yeo told the media he expects Mitchell to use his speed on the wing.
The blue line will remain the same as Tuesday’s win against Los Angeles.
Starting in goal will be Edmonton’s worst nightmare, Niklas Backstrom. At home, he is 17-0-0 with a 1.34 goals against average, a .948 save percentage and four shutouts against the Oilers.
With only two games remaining, post-season awards has become a hot topic around the league. When Yeo was asked about Ryan Suter’s chances for the Norris and Jonas Brodin’s bid for the Calder, the Wild’s bench boss responded, “For me, they’re tap ins.” If you haven’t been checking out Wild.com, have a look at the #Suter4Norris and #Brodin4Calder infographics.
Programing reminder, tonight’s contest will air on FOX Sports North Plus. The channel guide can be found, here.
If you’re going to the game, during the second period at the 10-minute intermission, the Wild will be taking a fanoramic photo at Xcel Energy Center. So grab a seat, sit still and smile for the camera. At 7 p.m. Saturday, fans can visit wild.com/fanoramic and tag themselves in the photo.
If you’re going, you’ll also receive a pretty rad team poster. Stick tap to our creative department for putting these bad boys together.