The Wild will sit five points back of a playoff spot for the next handful of days, as the standings around the NHL go dormant while the league pauses for the All-Star Game.
With other teams coming off their bye weeks sooner than the Wild’s, which is tacked on after All-Star weekend instead of before, the team could find itself further back of the playoff pace in the Western Conference when it resumes play on Feb.1.
But regardless of how much ground the team must make up, coach Bruce Boudreau is expecting his team to regroup for practice on Jan.31 ready to challenge for a berth.
“They're going to put a push on,” Boudreau said after a 4-2 Wild win over the Red Wings on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center. “We have been pretty resilient if we take away the first seven games of the year. We seem to play, other than Pittsburgh, pretty good against the good teams. If we're healthy I'm liking a lot of the fits right now.”
Although the team was so close to rolling into the break 4-0, a 3-1 lead-up isn’t too shabby – even if it only moved the team five points back of the second wild card seed. But even if the team did earn those extra two points Monday instead of losing 5-4 to the Panthers, the Wild would still needed to have gotten on a run post-break to seriously contend for the playoffs over its final 32 contests.
“When you look at the standings and see that’s how many games you’ve got left, there’s a little more jump,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “Everyone comes in, and they’re a little more energized. You know the task at hand and what you’ve got to do, so I’m expecting guys to be fired up and just wanting to go to war together.”
After the first period Wednesday, it looked like the Wild might limp into the break since it was trailing the last-place Red Wings 2-1.
But the team took over in the second, claiming control of the game by scoring three times and outshooting Detroit 15-5.
“We knew it was right there in front of us,” Dumba said. “We had chances, and we just needed to clean it up a little, get a little bit more jump out of everyone. We did. Once we got to three goals, we didn’t look back.”
Each goal was scored by a different player, a recent trend for the Wild – particularly in wins.
In each of the team’s last seven victory, every goal has been recorded by someone new.
“You never know where you're going to get it from,” Boudreau said. “There are certain teams where you know where you're going to get your goals. If you look at our team, it's pretty balanced out.”
Before puck drop, the Wild recognized center Eric Staal for reaching 1,000 points earlier this season – a fitting way to kick off the rest of the week for Staal.
He and his family will travel to St. Louis for this weekend’s All-Star Game, Staal’s sixth appearance and second with the Wild.
For recording 1,000 points, Staal was presented with a gold stick and crystal by owner Craig Leipold and General Manager Bill Guerin.
“That was pretty cool,” said Staal, who was joined on the ice by his wife Tanya and their three sons. “That was a fun ceremony to have with my wife and my kids and to have Craig and Billy, it was very nice of them and the Wild to do. It was happy, and it feels good to get that 1,000thpoint in the Wild sweater and to enjoy that ceremony with my family was special. And I’m sure the stick will end up on a shelf somewhere.”