Time to worry? Wild lose to Flames

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It seemed like the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets merely had the West’s eighth seed to fight over in the 2013 season’s last week. When you consider the significant struggles of the seventh-ranked Minnesota Wild, things might get that much more interesting.

Minnesota flopped 4-1 to the lowly Calgary Flames on Sunday, dropping its April record to 3-7-1 in 11 games. It’s also the team’s fifth consecutive loss at home.

Most importantly, this defeat leaves the Wild with precious little breathing room:

7. Minnesota – 51 points with three games left (20 regulation/overtime wins)
8. Columbus – 49 points with three games left (16 ROW)
9. Detroit – 48 points with four games left (18 ROW)
10. Dallas – 47 points with four games left (20 ROW)
11. Phoenix – 46 points with four games left (15 ROW)

While the Phoenix Coyotes are a pretty big longshot, the Stars’ chances are more solid than they might seem because Dallas hosts Columbus on April 25 and then finishes the season with a home game against Detroit on April 27.

Minnesota still has a buffer, so more than a few teams will probably root for the Los Angeles Kings to beat them on Tuesday. After that, the Wild face two of the NHL’s worst teams – albeit division rivals who might delight in spoiling their fun – in the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.

Then again, the Wild were expected to beat the Flames tonight, so that shows us how unsafe it is to make assumptions about the West playoff race.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo points out that the Wild’s front office is confident enough to put postseason tickets on sale, though: