After last night's head shaker, the Minnesota Wild now find themselves leaving home on what could be their toughest road trip of the season. On this trip, the team will make stops in St. Louis, Phoenix, LA, and their last stop is at the Madhouse on Madison against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Tonight two huge points are on the line as the green and white invade Scottrade Center in St. Louis to play the first place Blues. In the two teams last meeting at Xcel, Minnesota would rally for one point as they would fall in the shootout. However, many positives would come from this game. One, this proved that the Wild are capable of skating with the top dogs in the NHL. Two, they are able to overcome adversity coming from behind, tying the game in the third, and sending it to overtime and eventually the shootout.
Tonight's game may be a little different though. Minnesota, who just played last night, is coming into St. Louis after a 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks. Yes they would throw 31 shots on goal, but had major struggles to capitalize on premium scoring chances, and had a few costly turnovers. I would expect Ilya Bryzgalov to get the call in St. Louis tonight as the Wild look to get the much needed two points and remain the top wild card team.
After tonight, Minnesota travels to face a Phoenix team who sits just three points behind the Wild for the top wild card spot. This is probably the biggest game of the season for Minnesota, and a must win in regulation. The Coyotes are a team that not many talk about, so there is no pressure on them making their season a lot less stressful on this team.
From the desert the Wild will travel to Hollywood as they face-off against the LA Kings at Staples Center. Minnesota really has not done too well in LA in recent history, but need to change history in order to keep their playoff push strong. LA is also the new home to the first ever Minnesota Wild draft pick Marian Gaborik. Although Gabby would have many injury problems towards the end of his time in Minnesota, New York, and Columbus, he is always a threat to score when he is on the ice and makes this LA offense that much more lethal. The Minnesota defense is going to have to be at the top of their game or LA will blow this one wide open.
Finally, from LA Minnesota travels to the Windy City to play the Chicago Blackhawks. These two teams have had a lot of history in the last two seasons, including last year's playoffs, and look to have another tight battle on the ice. Minnesota has found some success playing in Chicago this season and lets hope they can continue to have it.
The road doesn't get much easier as the season draws to a close for Minnesota, but this tough end of season schedule might be just what this team needs to prime themselves for the playoffs. It is looking like right now the Wild will be playing the winner of the Pacific Division, provided no major changes in the standings between now and the second week in April.