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Feb 26, 2024 7:32 pm

In thick of West wild-card race, Wild take on Hurricanes

Kirill Kaprizov

The Minnesota Wild will go for their third win in a row when they welcome the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in Saint Paul, Minn.

The Wild are coming off victories at the Edmonton Oilers and Seattle Kraken. After Tuesday’s home game, they go back out for two more road games.

With 24 regular-season games to go, Minnesota is very much aware of the crowded race for a Western Conference playoff berth. The Wild are four points out of the second wild-card spot.

“We need every point we can get,” Wild forward Marcus Johansson said.

Carolina is in a more favorable spot in the Eastern Conference standings, but nothing is guaranteed. The Hurricanes are looking to bounce back from a 3-2 loss in the shootout round against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, which followed a 2-1 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour provided a blunt assessment after Sunday’s defeat.

“We were pretty awful, to be quite honest,” Brind’Amour said. “I kind of knew it was going to happen. We were mentally not there. And that’s what happens.

“We have a tough schedule, and the three (games) in four nights with the travel, I could just feel it on the bench. We were just not sharp, and thankfully the one guy that’s been rested, (goaltender Spencer) Martin, was the difference tonight. He got us a point because we were not there tonight.”

After a day off Monday, Carolina is expected to turn back to Pyotr Kochetkov in net. The 24-year-old from Russia is 15-10-3 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage this season.

Kochetkov has faced the Wild once in his career. He is 0-0-1 with a 1.96 GAA and a .905 save percentage after turning aside 19 of 21 shots.

Sebastian Aho leads Carolina with 61 points (22 goals, 39 assists) in 55 games. Seth Jarvis is next on the scoring list with 46 points (18, 28) in 58 games, and Martin Necas ranks third with 42 points (18, 24) in 53 games.

Minnesota goaltender Filip Gustavsson is expected to get the start against the Hurricanes. Gustavsson is 16-13-3 with a 3.23 GAA and an .896 save percentage on the season.

In two career starts against Carolina, Gustavsson is 2-0-0 with a 1.49 GAA and a .952 save percentage. He has stopped 60 of 63 shots in those contests.

Kirill Kaprizov leads the Wild in scoring with 63 points (26 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games. Joel Eriksson Ek leads the team in goals (28) and is second in scoring with 54 points in 58 games, and Mats Zuccarello is third with 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 49 games.

Kaprizov has at least one point in eight consecutive games. He is coming off a three-point performance (two goals, one assist) against Seattle and was named as the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week Monday.

This is the second and final matchup of the regular season between the teams. Minnesota pulled away for a 5-2 win in Raleigh, N.C., Carolina in the first meeting Jan. 21.

–Field Level Media

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