NHL: Surging Wild express confidence in trade deadline status quo

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota Wild skated to the NHL trade deadline in an enviable position, on track for the playoffs with their lineup almost intact again.

Though the top two teams in the daunting Central Division bolstered their rosters on the last day for dealing of the season, the Wild weren’t worried. They’ve won four straight games to surge into fourth place in the Western Conference.

“I like what we have and the way we’re playing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said on Monday, about two hours before the trade deadline. “Obviously to get into the playoffs and to go anywhere, we have to play better.”

That’s essentially what they’ve done, though, after stumbling through their first 20 games. They’re 26-12-4 since Nov. 9, and 10 of their next 11 games are against teams currently below the cut for the postseason.

“We’re showing that we’re sticking to the game plan,” center Matt Cullen said. “Early in the year, we may have changed things up a little bit if things weren’t going our way and find ourselves in trouble and dig a hole, but I think it’s been pretty good here lately.”

Nashville acquired left wing Ryan Hartman from Chicago and re-signed center Mike Fisher for the stretch run. Winnipeg landed center Paul Stastny in a surprising swap with suddenly skidding St. Louis. The only move the Wild made on Monday was to trade defenseman Mike Reilly to Montreal for a fifth-round draft pick.

“I don’t let it bother me,” Boudreau said. “I’ve always believed if we do the right things, then usually good things happen. I’ve been on both sides.”

They’re expecting defenseman Jonas Brodin back from a broken left hand this week, and their forward depth has been sound enough that they let right wing Chris Stewart go in a waiver claim by Calgary. That gives the Wild some more space under the salary cap for future maneuvering.

“We pretty well knew he was going to get picked up,” Boudreau said. “He’s too good a person, too good a teammate for nothing to happen to him.”

The Wild, who host the Blues on Tuesday, have displayed an invaluable ability to rally lately. They turned a 2-0 deficit in the final minute of the second period against San Jose on Sunday into a 3-2 overtime victory . They trailed 2-0 at New Jersey on Thursday and charged back to win 4-2.

“Lately, we’re getting that feeling that we’re never out of it,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “That’s an important one to have.”

Even more critical than this late-season resilience has been the productivity of these victories. Sometimes teams can get hot and still go nowhere in the standings, but the Wild have timed their streak well against slumps by some of their closest Western Conference competitors.

“It’s a good sign for us, but it’s still going to be tight,” left wing Zach Parise said. “We all know there’s not a lot of points separating the teams, so we’ve got to keep improving and worry about ourselves. You don’t want to find yourselves in a spot where you have to scoreboard watch.”

COMMENTS