When Mikko Koivu was initially sidelined due to a shoulder injury in mid-January, the Wild were still very much in the fight for a roster spot. They had been struggling, but they still had hope. Koivu only played in four games over the course of two months before he returned on March 22. The Wild won that game, but it’s too late for them. Hope is a thing of the past for this club and now all that’s left is for them to play for their paycheck, pride, and the chance to be a spoiler. That last one is huge on Sunday because while their upcoming matchup can’t save the Wild’s season, it will be vital to their opponents, the Washington Capitals (5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Washington is still in the thick of the race for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve certainly made life hard on themselves by losing four of their last five contests. Most recently, they had a chance to all-but crush the rival Winnipeg Jets’ playoff hopes, but ended up allowing four unanswered goals in a 4-3 overtime victory for the Jets.
The Capitals have been struggling lately despite the fact that Alex Ovechkin has been playing like his old self. He has scored eight times in his last six contests and is currently on a four-game goal scoring streak. This season will be seen as another disappointment by the high standards we all hold Ovechkin to. However, he did reach the 35-goal mark on Friday and is the big reason the Capitals even ended up with a point in that contest.
Although he isn’t expected to play in Sunday’s contest, Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) has been given the green light to fully participate in practices. That should provide Washington with a bit of extra inspiration. If the Capitals can bounce back and stay in the playoff race, then Backstrom’s potential return might ultimately mean far more for his team than Koivu’s did for his already sunk club.