Originally posted on State of Hockey News  |  Last updated 4/18/13
Minnesota Wild (24-16-3)  51pts  2nd in the Northwest 2.56 Goals For (18th) 2.49 Goals Against (13th) 18.3% Power Play (14th) 82.7% Penalty Kill (11th) Top 5 Scorers: 1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 16G 19A = 35pts 2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 10G 24A = 34pts 3. #29 Jason Pominville ~ 14G 19A = 33pts 4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 4G 28A = 32pts 5. #7 Matt Cullen ~ 7G 19A = 26pts Top 3 PIM's: 1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 100 PIM's 2. #27 Mike Rupp ~ 67 PIM's 3. #44 Justin Falk ~ 40 PIM's Top Goaltender(s): 1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (22-12-3)  2.40GAA  .912%SP  2SO 2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (1-2-0)  1.98GAA  .924%SP 3. #37 Josh Harding (1-1-0)  2.92GAA  .885%SP  1SO     Vs.     San Jose Sharks (23-13-7)  53pts  3rd in the Pacific 2.35 Goals For (25th) 2.33 Goals Against (6th) 19.1% Power Play (12th) 86.1% Penalty Kill (4th) Top 5 Scorers: 1. #19 Joe Thornton ~ 7G 31A = 38pts 2. #39 Logan Couture ~ 17G 13A = 30pts 3. #12 Patrick Marleau ~ 17G 11A = 28pts 4. #8 Joe Pavelski ~ 13G 13A = 26pts 5. #22 Dan Boyle ~ 7G 13A = 20pts Top 3 PIM's: 1. #10 Andrew Dejardins ~ 59 PIM's 2. #9 Martin Havlat ~ 30 PIM's 3. #22 Dan Boyle ~ 27 PIM's Top Goaltender(s): 1. #31 Antti Niemi (22-10-6)  2.12GAA  .926%SP  4SO 2. #1 Thomas Greiss (1-3-0)  2.64GAA  .909%SP  1SO Click on "Continue Reading" for the rest of the article... Western Conference Standings 1. Chicago (33-5-4) - 70pts 2. Anaheim (27-10-6) - 60pts 3. Vancouver (24-12-7) - 55pts 4. Los Angeles (24-14-5) - 53pts 5. San Jose (23-13-7) - 53pts 6. Minnesota (24-16-3) - 51pts 7. St. Louis (24-16-2) - 50pts 8. Columbus (21-16-7) - 49pts ----------------------------------------- 9. Detroit (20-16-7) - 47pts 10. Dallas (21-18-3) - 45pts 11. Phoenix (18-17-7) - 43pts The saying in football is "are you hearing footsteps" is a way to ask are you hearing someone catching up to you from behind, and it certainly seems that way when you take a look at the everchanging and still gridlocked Western Conference playoff picture.  This might make Wild fans laugh, but I think you may have to consider former Wild Head Coach, Todd Richards as a strong candidate for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach if he can manage to get the Columbus Blue Jackets into the playoffs.  The Blue Jackets started the season where they normally have been throughout most of the franchise's history, at the bottom but with a remarkable run of success the Blue Jackets have scratched, clawed and climbed their way into 8th in the West after defeating Anaheim 3-2 in overtime last night.  Say what you will about their roster, or enjoy taking shots at what their chances in the post-season might be but this team has really been the story of the 2nd half of this shortened NHL season.  The man responsible for the turnaround?  Sorry Marian Gaborik, but the credit goes to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and the Wild know this all too well.  Bobrovsky has been extraordinary in the blue paint for Columbus and last season proved just what can happen when you have a red hot goalie and team that is going to play hard every night, even as the 8th seed which is where the Blue Jackets would be if the season ended today.  I have enjoyed making fun of the Blue Jackets and their fans over the years but even getting this far is a pretty considerable achievement from where this club started this season.  The trades and change of culture brought about by Team President John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen have significantly altered the direction of this franchise.  A franchise that some even started to speculate was heading towards relocation (yes, it was getting that bad in Columbus).    Should Todd Richards be considered for the Jack Adams Award?  For the Wild, the Blue Jackets' success only re-affirms what we as fans already know.  The only way to ensure your spot in the playoffs is to simply keep winning and pile up as many points as you can and if you focus on that everything else should be taken care of.  Every point is crucially important.  Tonight's game against 5th place San Jose is absolutely huge and without question, both clubs realize that.  The Wild should go into tonight's game feeling good after winning its last two games in this 3-game road trip.  The wins against Calgary and Edmonton were nice, but those teams are both out of the playoff hunt.  A win tonight in San Jose gives the Wild another major step closer to their goal of qualifying for the post-season while improving their standing by being able to leap frog the Sharks if they manage to win in regulation.  A regulation win combined with a Columbus regulation win in Los Angeles could bring the Wild all the way to 4th place in the West.  Yet, that's a lot of hopeful thinking.  As I said earlier in this paragraph, the Wild should focus on winning this game (any way they can) and only good things can happen from it.  The arrival of Matt Cullen has reinvigorated the Wild's offense and given the club 3 quality scoring lines.  Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have gone from almost invisible to being solid contributors in an instant.  His return has also allowed the team to move forward with a more consistent lineup by reuiting Charlie Coyle to the top pairing of Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise.  The rookie has had good chemistry, working down low along the boards with this line that loves to cycle and bring the puck in close for scoring chances.  Coyle's promotion to the top line has also sent Jason Pominville to the 3rd line but its not really a demotion as it gives the Wild another dangerous secondary scoring threat.  Pominville's arrival on the 3rd line along with Kyle Brodziak and Mikael Granlund / Jason Zucker give Minnesota a 3rd line with scoring, speed (Zucker) or skill (Granlund) and a little grit putting opponents in a difficult situation when trying to match up.  The 4th line, while not contributing much offensively has enjoyed the increased speed of having Cal Clutterbuck working with Torrey Mitchell.  The Wild will need it against one of the stingiest teams in the league in the San Jose Sharks.  Defensively the Wild will lean heavily on its top pairing of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.  Brodin has shown terrific poise all season long, but he's raised his game a bit as he knows Suter is still ailing a bit and he will need to be at the top of his game tonight.  The Wild will need quality minutes from Jared Spurgeon who has been a bit muted at both ends of the rink the last 5 or so games but most notably they'll need a mistake-free night from Clayton Stoner.  Stoner has become the whipping boy in comments left on Star Tribune.com as well as the team message boards and if he can go without making too many significant errors in his own zone then the Wild's chances of victory go up significantly.  I would expect to see Tom Gilbert and Brett Clark working the bottom six roles considering the club has won its last two games.  I think you can expect to see Niklas Backstrom between the pipes after having yesterday to rest.  San Jose is trying to hold its position in the Western Conference standings.  The last time the two clubs played, the Wild who were depleted without Cullen in the lineup still managed to make a game of it in a 4-2 loss.  The Sharks' backbreaking goal came from veteran defenseman Dan Boyle who was not dispatched as part of a deadline deal as some experts were speculating and instead gashed the Wild with an end-to-end rush on the power play that demoralized the team.  The Sharks have had some trouble scoring goals but they have a lot of potential to light the lamp still.  Joe Thornton is still one of the better set up men in the league, and Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski are all efficient finishers in and around the crease.  Former Wild defenseman Brent Burns has been lighting the lamp with increasing frequency lately where the Sharks have been utilizing him as a forward (which was where the Wild originally drafted him as back in 2003).  Martin Havlat is another potentially dangerous player but is going through another disappointing season since the Wild traded him for Dany Heatley.  Perhaps the Wild's biggest challenge, other than trying to slow down Burns and the slowly improving Sharks offense is finding a way to solve goaltender Antti Niemi who has had rock solid season for San Jose.  I do not expect the Wild to seek out any real revenge towards Marc-Edouard Vlasic who took out Heatley for the rest of the season by slamming him to the ice at the end of the game on April 3rd.  The Wild would be wise to avoid getting sent to the penalty box as the Sharks power play is one of the best in the NHL.  I expect the Wild to handle it the way they did Taylor Hall in Edmonton on Tuesday; where they largely ignored Hall until after the game was over before sharing a few disparaging comments back and forth.  Tonight's game is pivotal for both clubs and one that will really solidify or jeopardize the WIld's post-season aspirations.  The Wild have had an excellent road trip so far, but another win tonight would really put the team in a position of confidence before it heads into its last little homestand.  Expect a playoff-like atmosphere this evening. 
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Winners and losers from 'Monday Night Football'

Each MLB team’s most important free agent

LaVar Ball refuses to thank Donald Trump in CNN interview

DeMarcus Cousins elbows Russ in head, gets ejected

WATCH: Hornets' Cody Zeller hilariously rejected by the rim

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

JR Smith shovels no look-dime to Dwayne Wade for bucket

WATCH: Mohamed Sanu hauls in tough one-handed TD

Rams lose Robert Woods for a couple weeks to shoulder injury

Bears TE Zach Miller finally at home three weeks after traumatic leg injury

Jerry Jones reportedly wants secret ballot in Goodell's contract talks

Baker Mayfield stripped of captaincy, won't start vs. WVU

The 'Wheelin' and Thielen in Minnesota' quiz

What each NFL team should be grateful for this Thanksgiving

Sports & Politics Intersect: Is Jerry out of his league?

Winners and losers from NBA's first month

MLS conference finals predictions: Who will advance to play for Cup trophy?

Should the Broncos make Tyrod Taylor their next quarterback?

15 mid-majors you need to know before you hear about them in March

Follow Ben Simmons as he leads us to the NBA's unknown future

The Saints flipped the script to revive their season

The 15 best and 15 worst MLB signings of the last decade

14 things we hated about 2017 college football season

Vikings' unnecessary quarterback conundrum is Mike Zimmer's doing

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'Wheelin' and Thielen in Minnesota' quiz

What each NFL team should be grateful for this Thanksgiving

NFL Week 11 injury report

Sports & Politics Intersect: Is Jerry out of his league?

15 mid-majors you need to know before you hear about them in March

The 'An I, Tonya for an eye (or knee)' quiz

Should the Broncos make Tyrod Taylor their next quarterback?

The 15 best and 15 worst MLB signings of the last decade

The 'It's a major award!' quiz

Follow Ben Simmons as he leads us to the NBA's unknown future

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker