NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a Sunday meeting between the Detroit Red Wings, who visit the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here
In terms of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings’ chances of earning a postseason berth tucked nicely between incredibly slim and nil.
With 18 games left coming into Sunday’s action, the Red Wings sit seven points behind the surging Carolina Hurricanes in the battle for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and there are four other teams in front of them vying for that same spot, with two of those on lengthy winning streaks.
They’re, of course, not mathematically eliminated, but if they lose their third straight game on Sunday in Minnesota against the Wild, mathematics may just become a formality in what’s been a disappointing season for Detroit.
The Wings have been involved on the wrong end of a pile of one-goal games this season, and their latest — a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets — produced some frustration after the game.
“It’s another one-goal loss here,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We can say that we were close and that we battled hard in the third but there’s no reason for us to be in that situation.”
Asked if losing tight affairs is getting old, defenseman Niklas Kronwall didn’t shy away from an honest answer.
“Yeah. To say the least,” Kronwall said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s been said before. It’s one of the reasons why we are where we’re at.”
The Wild, meanwhile, enter the game sporting the same two-game losing streak as the Red Wings, but with much more on the line.
Minnesota got beat by the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and then followed that up with getting rocked 7-1 by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
Both losses, including Friday’s embarrassment, came on the road, where the Wild have been far from productive. Sunday’s game brings Minnesota back to Xcel Energy Center, where they sport one of the best home records in the league.
A lengthy losing streak in the Central Division can spell disaster for postseason hopes (just ask the St. Louis Blues), and with the Anaheim Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche vying alongside the Wild for one of the two wildcard spots, Minnesota is well aware the bleeding needs to stop.
“That’s the way this game goes,” Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau said, per Sarah McLellan. “It’s tough to watch it. That’s why when it’s your turn, you gotta win.”
It has all the markings of a proverbial trap game for the Wild, and one they’d best avoid if they’re to keep their three-point cushion for the first wildcard spot in the West.