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What a week to be Wild

At 21-11-2, the Minnesota Wild sit third in the West, seven points behind second place Anaheim, with a game in hand. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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At 21-11-2, the Minnesota Wild sit third in the West, seven points behind second place Anaheim, with a game in hand. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

This is more what GM Chuck Fletcher envisioned when he signed the two biggest free agents last summer.

The Minnesota Wild started this season a very mediocre 4-5-1. Ryan Suter was deep in the negative and the team was averaging a sliver more than two goals per game. It was looking, more or less, like the same old Wild and that “the process” was going to take more than a short season to iron out.

But then it all clicked.

Suter has corrected course and is front and center as a Norris candidate, the team’s 2.74 goal average ranks them 14th and is their best since 2006-07, Zach Parise is scoring at one of the best clips in his career and Niklas Backstrom’s steady pad is providing a reliable backstop to it all. Suddenly, here we are about to head down the home stretch, and Minnesota is third in the West, with the deflating Anaheim Ducks putting No. 2 within striking distance.

Now with the trade deadline around the corner, the Wild could choose to use some of their deep prospect core to complement the current roster, or take whatever comes this season with gravy and enjoy the ride.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Pittsburgh Penguins
1
28-8-0
10-0-0
After losing their Norris candidate, Pens lose their Hart candidate to put their 15-game winning streak in jeopardy against Buffalo and the Rangers this week.
2
Chicago Blackhawks
2
26-5-3
5-5-0
Late goals against becoming a problem for a team that found ways to win out of the gate. With Crosby out of Penguins lineup, Patrick Kane has chance to make some Hart headway.
3
Montreal Canadiens
3
22-7-5
7-2-1
Showed they can play close with the toughest teams in the conference through offense or defense in splitting matchups against Bruins and Penguins.
4
Minnesota Wild
5
21-11-2
8-2-0
Wild settling in as a unit and getting contributions very deep in the lineup. When the playoffs hit, the Wild will be a popular dark horse
5
Vancouver Canucks
6
19-10-6
7-3-0
The Canucks have fallen from having the 14th-best power play to the league’s worst in about a month. But if Cory Schneider keeps going at this pace, he’ll be in the running for the Vezina by the end of the season.
6
Boston Bruins
8
22-8-4
5-4-1
After being rejected by Jarome Iginla, will Bruins go after another star, such as Martin St-Louis? Bruins need to address their recent lack of offense.
7
Anaheim Ducks
4
23-7-5
4-4-2
Because of how often they were coming back to win games, a fall of some degree was inevitable for the Ducks. But now they’ve lost six of nine. Early excitement over the surprise play of Viktor Fasth has faded as the team’s GAA rises.
8
Toronto Maple Leafs
7
20-12-4
5-2-3
Nazem Kadri the toast of Hogtown and now sits sixth in league scoring, though Hart talk is completely overblown. When healthy, Joffrey Lupul may be team’s best player.
9
Ottawa Senators
10
19-10-6
6-2-2
If you would have told me last year that Sergei Gonchar and Kyle Turris were leading the Sens in scoring, I’d have thought they’d be closing in on Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon, not in contention for home-ice advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs.
10
Los Angeles Kings
11
20-12-3
6-3-1
With Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell out, Kings could use a defensive defenseman like Buffalo’s Robyn Regehr, who is rumored to be available. But if Jonathan Quick doesn’t start getting serious, it might not matter what they do on deadline day.
11
Columbus Blue Jackets
14
15-14-7
5-2-3
Columbus has only won two road games against teams not from Detroit and have to spend eight of their last 12 games away from home. Enjoy it while it lasts Columbus, because judging by the information, this run may end rather abruptly.
12
New Jersey Devils
15
15-11-9
4-2-4
Kings dealt Andrei Loktionov to the Devils because he was buried in their system and they were worried he’d head back to Russia. An RFA this summer, Loktionov has found a home with the Devils and has come on lately with six points in seven games.
13
Detroit Red Wings
9
17-13-5
5-4-1
Damien Brunner had 10 goals and 16 points in his first 20 NHL games. He has zero goals and five points in the 14 since. This is why we don’t jump to conclusions.
14
Washington Capitals
16
16-17-2
6-3-1
Though they can still find ways to lose games – like they did Sunday in Philadelphia – the Capitals are coming on. And the task of turning it around isn’t as daunting in the Southeast as it would be in the Northeast or Atlantic.
15
Winnipeg Jets
12
18-16-2
5-5-0
After going on a 10-3-1 run, the Jets lost four of six, including an ugly game against Carolina that could have given Winnipeg some breathing room.
16
San Jose Sharks
22
17-11-6
6-4-0
Sharks have won four in a row and five of six to give them new hope. But the Sharks should learn a lesson from Calgary and consider moving their best assets before their hand is forced.
17
Edmonton Oilers
24
14-13-7
6-2-2
Oilers on their biggest winning streak of the season and with a home-and-home against Calgary this week, have a tremendous opportunity to put themselves in a playoff position. Magnus Pääjärvi earning more ice time and hopes the points will come with it.
18
St. Louis Blues
13
17-14-2
5-5-0
St. Louis is on a three-game losing streak, have lost four of five, and sent their best performing goaltender (Jake Allen) to AHL Peoria. Good luck.
19
New York Islanders
21
16-16-3
5-5-0
Islanders starting to turn some heads, but can they reach the post-season with such dreadful defense? Isles sit 28th in goals-against. Right now, the highest GAA of any team in a playoff spot is Winnipeg at 2.89. And they have the benefit of being in the Southeast.
20
Dallas Stars
18
16-15-3
4-5-1
Jaromir Jagr reached 1,000 assists on his Hall of Fame career, which puts him 16 behind Joe Sakic for 11th all-time.
21
New York Rangers
19
16-15-3
3-6-1
When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash, it was to improve their offense. Now New York has the lowest goals-for average in the league. With the great year Henrik Lundqvist is having, it would speak volumes of the Rangers if they miss the playoffs.
22
Nashville Predators
17
14-14-7
4-5-1
The Predators have been losing even though they’ve found some offense. They play Chicago three times this week, which could end all playoff hope.
23
Carolina Hurricanes
20
16-15-2
3-6-1
Saturday’s win in Winnipeg kept Carolina’s head above water. If they miss the playoffs, many of the excuses will relate to the fact Cam Ward was injured, but it’s much more than that. Offense is supposed to be this team’s strength, but it’s been quiet in the past eight games.
24
Philadelphia Flyers
25
15-17-3
4-4-2
It’s hard to fathom the Flyers, with all their defensive liabilities, would be in on the Ryane Clowe talks. But then again, this team has never been afraid to nuke their situation.
25
Phoenix Coyotes
26
14-15-6
2-5-3
The wheels are coming off and the magic is gone. Would the Coyotes explore trading the injured Mike Smith for some return, or risk passing by the deadline without signing him to an extension?
26
Tampa Bay Lightning
29
15-18-1
5-5-0
While Anders Lindback hasn’t played well enough, Tampa’s defense shouldn’t escape blame until they start cutting down on shots against.
27
Buffalo Sabres
23
13-17-6
4-3-3
Amazingly only three points out of eighth, but when you follow up a three-game winning streak with four straight losses – three of which were against non-playoff teams – you’ll never catch up. So, the burn down begins, first with Jordan Leopold, next with Thomas Vanek?
28
Calgary Flames
27
13-16-4
4-6-0
It so rarely ever works out when you trade your star player for futures and this Iginla trade looks especially bad. Could end up being a great example of how most people assume too much and overvalue picks/prospects.
29
Florida Panthers
30
11-19-6
4-6-0
Florida showing marked improvement (#sarcasm) with two of their three season-high two-game winning streaks coming in the past 12 days.
30
Colorado Avalanche
28
12-18-4
2-8-0
Welcome to the bottom of the barrel, Colorado. Your 1996 Stanley Cup final foe has kept it warm for you.

 

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