This shapes up to be a very big game. Obviously, first place on the line, but also a chance for Vancouver to right the ship a bit, or for the Wild to put a stake in the ground that they are, and intend to remain, officially on the scene.
Just looking at ROW, the Wild has 12. Vancouver has 10. Edmonton 9, Calgary 11, Colorado 9. As we talked about on The Dump In last night (check it out), the Wild is starting to show some signs of separation from the passel of teams outside the top 8 in the west right now, to the point where - if they are actually this good, and are not just on a hot streak - they might be able to solidify a spot in the top 8 for good. 2 points from Vancouver tonight goes a long way towards justifying that theory.
Also, the Wild needs to slay the Canucks dragon. 2003 is a ghost at this point, and Vancouver has owned the division for a long time. What better way to put the NW division to bed after this season than by casting some doubt on the idea that the Canucks are the best team in it? I can think of no parting gift that I'd rather give to Vancouver's "fans".
I agree with Russo that Bax is going to need some rest, and likely soon. But I hope he's got one more solid game in him, and that that game is tonight. Looking ahead to the Red Wings, they're as vulnerable as they've been since the Wild were born, so maybe that's the game for Hax or maybe Hards to get in there and spell the big Finn.
GP MIN 27 VAN 27
GF/GM MIN 22nd 2.48 VAN 14th 2.74
GA/GM MIN 8th 2.48 VAN t14th 2.67
PP% MIN 20th 16.5% VAN 27th 13.6%
PK% MIN 5th 86.4% VAN 15th 81.0%
My predictions have not come true yet this season, so I'm going to retire my crystal ball. Enjoy the game, folks!