NHL on NBCSN: Wild look to bury Stars’ playoff hopes

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Thursday, as the Minnesota Wild host the Dallas Stars at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

To put it nicely, things haven’t been going well for the Stars as of late. They’ve lost eight of their last nine contests and they’re pretty much out of the Western Conference playoff picture.

The good news, is that they’re coming off a big 3-2 OT win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The bad news, is that time is running out. The Stars are currently five points behind Anaheim for the final Wild Card spot in the West, which isn’t insurmountable, but there’s only five games left.

The schedule isn’t too friendly for them down the stretch either, as they play a home-and home series against the Wild starting tonight before they finish the season with a three-game road trip though California.

The odds are stacked against them.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The Wild are in a much better spot. They’re sitting pretty in third place in the Central Division. Minnesota is three points up on St. Louis, who is in the first Wild Card spot and four points up on Colorado, who is out of the playoffs, with a game in hand.

Minnesota has just one win in their last four games, but the three losses came in overtime decisions against tough opponents (Nashville, Boston, Los Angeles). They haven’t dropped a game in regulation since they lost to Colorado on home ice on Mar. 13.

Eric Staal has been one of the major reasons for the Wild’s success. The veteran is having an incredible year. He found the back of the net for the 40th time this season on Tuesday night.

It’s the third time in his career that Staal hits the 40-goal mark. He became just the second player in league history to reach that milestone eight seasons apart. The other player is Gordie Howe, who had 40-goal seasons 11 years apart (1956-57 and 1968-69), per Elias Sports.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.