With a playoff berth clinched, the Minnesota Wild will turn their attention to securing home ice when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Minnesota (47-21-7, 101 points) clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons with a 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
The Wild are third in the Central Division, one point behind the St. Louis Blues, who will play the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
“We’re pretty comfortable playing either place and come playoff time you’re going have to win on the road as well,” captain Jared Spurgeon said. “Obviously we have great fans here and that’d be ideal to start at home. But if that’s not what happens, that’s not going to really faze us. We have some games here coming up that we’ve got to shore our game up, and just get to feeling like we’re playing at our best going into playoffs.”
Kevin Fiala continues to enjoy a career season. The forward added four points to his total against the Sharks and now has 36 points in his past 29 games, including nine multi-point efforts. Only once during that stretch has he gone more than a game without a point.
“You can tell when he’s taking over a game,” Spurgeon said. “He’s so dynamic. He’s strong on his skates, and he can shoot, he can pass, and it’s fun to watch when he gets going. He has that confidence all the time. But just right now, it seems to be like pucks are finding him and he’s working very hard.”
The Canadiens (20-45-11, 51 points) are looking to halt a five-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 23-9, including an 8-4 loss to the Washington Capitals in their most recent outing on Saturday.
Montreal has six games remaining in what has been a frustrating season for the club. And while the team has tailed off from a strong start under interim coach Martin St. Louis, there is still plenty to be gained over the final string of the season.
“I feel like where we are right now, especially me as a coach, you try to help the young players with their game, and everyone has holes in their games that they will attack this summer,” St. Louis said. “I tell the guys whatever you do this summer, you cannot duplicate the reps you’re getting right now. … It’s our job working with young players to be careful in teaching them hard and (not) killing confidence. It’s a fine line and you want to be constructive with the young guys to a point, but also to have a plan for them to grow as players.”
Nick Suzuki reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his young career Saturday. He’s the only Canadiens player to have suited up for every game this season.
“I think it’s everyone’s goal heading into the season to play every game,” he said. “Kind of have to have some luck involved with that obviously but it’d be cool to play every game this year, for sure.”
–Field Level Media