As we speak, the Minnesota Wild are playing what amounts to a must-win game against the Arizona Coyotes. Neither team is in a playoff position as of now, but it still represents a potential four-point shift in the Western Conference wild card race. The Coyotes currently sit in ninth place, three points back of the Colorado Avalanche for the final postseason berth. The Wild are in tenth place, just one point behind the ’Yotes. A Minnesota regulation win would see them leapfrog Arizona to pull within two points of Colorado, but an Arizona regulation win would put Minnesota three points back of the nine seed and still four points back of the eight seed, which might be insurmountable with only three games remaining after today.
Hurting the chances of a much-needed Wild win today is the continued absence of star forward Zach Parise. Unfortunately, he may not be returning at all this season. Just prior to puck drop, beat writer Sarah McLellan reported that Parise would not be active for the game, which was not a great surprise, but added that head coach Bruce Boudreau has qualified Parise’s lower-body ailment as “significant”. While she writes that the team “hopes” he might play again this season, it seems far from certain. Parise has now missed four games in a row and with three games left his chances to return are running out. A loss today would substantially lower the odds of Parise being rushed back to action as well. The 34-year-old has enjoyed a resurgence this season, leading the team with 26 goals and 59 points, but this is a disappointing end to an otherwise encouraging season for the veteran.
- The Athletic’s Michael Russo believes that the Wild are “pushing hard” for college free agent forward Nico Sturm. The Clarkson University captain is considered the top defensive forward in the NCAA and has improved offensively in each of his four collegiate seasons as well. The concern with Sturm is that the 23-year-old may have already peaked in his development and could project as nothing more than a fourth-liner at the NHL level. However, with good size and a mature game, Sturm does have the added benefit of being able to contribute right away, even if not on the score sheet. In fact, Russo writes that if Sturm lands in Minnesota, he is likely to join the Wild right away and burn a year off his entry-level contract.
- There has been plenty of speculation as to where St. Cloud State University defenseman Jimmy Schuldt might end up and the rumor mill has only heated up since the Huskies were unceremoniously upset for the second straight year in their first game of the NCAA Tournament. At one point, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Schuldt would follow teammate Ryan Poehling to the Montreal Canadiens, but those whispers have subsided and many other contenders have entered the fray. Count the Wild as one such interested club. The Athletic’s Jake Jensen writes that Minnesota is at least “in the race” for Schuldt, alongside the L.A. Kings and Vegas Golden Knights. Potentially the best undrafted defender in college hockey this season, Schuldt will be a nice prize for whichever team he decides to join.