Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
GLENDALE, Ariz.—Never mind that the Wild finished the regular season with 106 points to set a franchise record. "Eh, we should've had 120 points," coach Bruce Boudreau joked after Saturday's 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes Had the Wild finished with 120 points, they would've almost certainly been the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Instead, the Wild will have settled for second place—behind the Chicago Blackhawks—which sets up a first round matchup with the St. Louis Blues.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wild center Martin Hanzal understandably felt a little out of place in the visitors locker room Saturday morning at Gila River Arena. Hanzal had spent his entire NHL career to that point getting dressed in the Arizona Coyotes locker room, wearing the Arizona Coyotes colors. That changed on Feb. 26 when the Coyotes traded him to the Wild. Since then, Hanzal has carved out a niche as the third-line center, racking up 12 points entering his 20th game in a Wild sweater on Saturday night.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wild defenseman Ryan Suter wouldn't bite. A few minutes after Minnesota had defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, April 4, Suter was asked whether he had a preference on the team's first-round playoff opponent, the St. Louis Blues or the Nashville Predators. "No. No preference," he snapped. "I don't want to get into that stuff."
DENVER — Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk isn't one for individual accolades. When he was leading the NHL in nearly every statistical category imaginable earlier this season, he brushed it off like it was nothing. That said, Dubnyk was well aware that win No. 40 was within reach entering Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. And yes, he wanted it.
ST. PAUL — Nothing good can come out of the final two games of the regular season for the Minnesota Wild. They locked up home-ice advantage in the first round of the NHL playoffs with Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and will play either the St. Louis Blues or Nashville Predators next week. That much is sure.
MINNEAPOLIS — Wild captain Mikko Koivu still remembers watching the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, from his home in Finland. He was 14 years old. That was the first year NHL players were allowed to participate in the Olympics, and while Koivu was already on his way to a career in hockey, watching some of his favorite players represent their countries made a profound impact. "If you're an athlete, you want to be a part of the Olympic Games," Koivu said. "If you look at any athlete in any sport, I'm sure every one of them wants to play and wants to take part in it."
ST. PAUL — If anyone knows what Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell is going through, it's former Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding. Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, the same disease that prematurely ended Harding's career two and a half years ago. Bickell hasn't played an NHL game since his diagnosis but was set to play Tuesday against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PAUL—Contrary to the misconception that seemed to become the narrative over the past month, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is not broken. He never was. Yes, the 30-year-old Dubnyk struggled from the beginning of March till the end, finishing with a 3-8-2 record. His overall body of work speaks for itself, though, and despite his slump he remains fifth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.23), tied for third in save percentage (.924) and fourth in wins (38). Dubnyk insists he never lost confidence in himself despite his tough times.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Eric Staal was essentially left for dead. He was on the wrong side of 30, according to the critics, and his best playing days were in the rearview mirror. So when the 32-year-old Staal signed with the Wild last offseason, he might as well, at least to the critics, have been a horse being taken out to pasture so his career could die peacefully. Staal has proved the critics wrong time and time again this season. He leads the Wild with 27 goals, has chipped in with 33 assists, and his 60 points trail only creative winger Mikael Granlund for the team lead.
ST. PAUL -- Any concerns about the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise missing extended time were put to rest Thursday when the 32-year-old winger returned to the ice. Parise, sporting a black-and-blue shiner around his right eye, participated in Thursday’s morning skate, and stayed afterwards to shoot pucks at backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper. His presence surprised coach Bruce Boudreau. “I’m waiting for him to come in and ask me to play tonight,” Boudreau joked.