Preview: Wild at Devils
The Minnesota Wild have not been able to give themselves any cushion in the race for a playoff spot after four straight losses and look to start moving forward again when they visit the struggling New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon. The Wild have 57 points - two ahead of Vancouver and St. Louis who are tied for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference - after suffering a 4-1 home setback to Edmonton on Thursday.
Minnesota gained points in an overtime loss to Chicago last Saturday and a shootout defeat at Buffalo on Tuesday, but scored only once in both regulation setbacks during the slide while losing captain Mikko Koivu (knee) for the season. “This was sort of the last straw,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. “Everybody now has caught us (in the standings) or is within a point, so it’s either find your sense of urgency and do what you have to do to win, or bad things are going to happen. If you look at our schedule starting at the end of the month, this is the time that you have to be successful.” The Devils, who visit Minnesota on Friday, are 2-5-1 over the last eight games and reside in the Metropolitan Division cellar but battled hard in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday. New Jersey has been without reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall (11 goals, 37 points) since Dec. 23 with a lower-body injury, but veteran goalie Cory Schneider (abdominal) returned for the first time since mid December and stopped 27-of-28 shots Thursday.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FS North, FS Wisconsin (Minnesota), MSG (New Jersey)
ABOUT THE WILD (26-23-5): Forward Joel Eriksson Ek scored the only goal Thursday after being recalled one day earlier as Minnesota searches to find some more depth offensively. Left wing Zach Parise tops the team in goals (21) and points (46) while Mikael Granlund is next with 44 points after notching five assists in the past five games, but has not scored in 13 contests. Veteran center Eric Staal (17 goals, 37 points) has not been on the scoresheet in three games and defenseman Jared Spurgeon has three of his 10 goals in the past five contests.
ABOUT THE DEVILS (20-25-8): Schneider (0-5-2, 4.11 goals-against average, .866 save percentage) missed 17 games before being recalled from a conditioning stint with Binghamton of the American Hockey League. "It's nice to feel good and play well but it's just one game,” Schneider told reporters. "It's all about moving forward. Like I said this week, I want to stay in the moment and not say I had one good game, it's going to happen automatically. You have to keep at it and keep digging and working.” Right wing Kyle Palmieri leads the team in goals (23) and points (40), but has only one assist in the past four games.
1. New Jersey C Nico Hischier has scored three of his 16 goals - four shy of his rookie total last season - in the last four contests.
2. Minnesota C Victor Rask recorded one goal and one assist with a minus-2 rating in seven games since being acquired from Carolina.
3. The Devils have won five of the last six meetings, but the Wild won the last encounter 4-2 in February 2018.
PREDICTION: Wild 4, Devils 2