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Wild try to aid playoff chances in home test vs. Pens
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild have a home-heavy stretch to end the regular season and the playoff-hopeful club hopes to use that schedule to its advantage when it welcomes the Pittsburgh Penguins for Saturday's game at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild boast a 23-9-5 record as the host this season and will finish the regular season by playing four of their last five games in St. Paul. Considering the club is just 16-17-7 on the road, the abundance of home tilts in April could help Minnesota secure a postseason berth.
Minnesota is trying to make the playoffs for a second straight spring after missing the postseason in each of the previous four campaigns. The Wild enter Saturday holding the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference and are four points ahead of eighth-seeded Phoenix and five in front of Dallas.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, already has clinched the Metropolitan Division title and enters Saturday trailing Boston by eight points for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins have won their last two meetings against the Wild, including a 5-2 home decision when the clubs met on Dec. 19 in the Steel City. Pittsburgh also has claimed two of the last three meetings in Minnesota, but the Wild are 9-4-0 with a tie in 14 all-time meetings against the Pens.
The Wild were able to record a point in Thursday's shootout loss in Chicago, but the club is hoping to win for the third time in four games on Saturday.
Minnesota did well to earn its point in the Windy City, as Erik Haula tallied with 1:54 left in the third period to force overtime. However, Marian Hossa scored the lone shootout goal in the second round to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 decision at the United Center.
Charlie Coyle also scored for the Wild, while Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 shots in the setback.
"I just felt like mentally we were tired," Minnesota's Zach Parise said. "I don't know if physically we were, but mentally -- we just looked like a tired team."
The Wild played Thursday's game without forwards Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Both players are questionable for Saturday with upper-body injuries.
Bryzgalov expects to start in net for Minnesota. He is 5-2-2 with a 2.60 goals against average in 11 career games against the Penguins.
Pittsburgh has won three of its last four games and is coming off Thursday's 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The victory kicked off a three-game road trip and boosted the Penguins' record as the guest this season to 22-14-3.
Before the Pens were able to put the finishing touches on their win against the Jets, the club officially won the Metropolitan Division title thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets' win in Philadelphia earlier on Thursday.
Beau Bennett, Craig Adams, Paul Martin and Brian Gibbons scored for the Penguins on Thursday, while Marc-Andre Fleury only needed to make 13 saves for the win.
"We didn't give up a lot and I certainly liked that about our team," Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma stated. "The defensive side of the puck we were real good."
Martin returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7. Pittsburgh's valuable defenseman had missed the previous 18 games due to a broken hand.
The Pens will complete their trip tomorrow in Colorado before capping the regular season with home games against Detroit, Philadelphia and Ottawa.
04/05 11:24:38 ET