WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The reeling Minnesota Wild visit the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday riding a season-high four-game losing streak and sinking further behind the first-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division.
Minnesota lost 3-2 at home to the New York Rangers Saturday night, dropping five points behind Chicago in a division that was its to win before losing seven of the last nine games.
Saturday's loss was particularly frustrating because the Wild scored the first goal for only the third time in the last three weeks and had a number of top-notch chances but failed to bury them.
"You know, when things aren't going good, that's what happens," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. "You get no puck luck. You get no bounces."
Boudreau tried to strike a balance between being hard on his team without, you know, being too hard on his team.
"They all want to win. They are trying really hard out there,'' he said. "They want to do the right thing. It's about getting back to the simplicity of what we did early on in the season which is when we had so much success. They have to get it in their head that what worked will work again. Once that happens, then I think will get back on the road to success."
To tank or not to tank, that is the question for the Jets.
Winnipeg is all but out of the playoff hunt -- 12 points back of the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.
The Jets were named the most disappointing team in the NHL this season by Canada's biggest sports TV station, The Sports Network, and it's conceivable they could finish as low as 28th, improving their chances of getting a top draft pick, perhaps even the first one.
It worked last year as the Jets moved up to the second selection in the June entry draft and Patrik Laine and his 33 goals (and counting) was the result.
Of course, no team officially goes into the tank -- the draft lottery largely takes care of that -- but it won't be surprising to see the NHL's bottom feeders calling up player after player from the farm to give them a taste of life in The Show.
The Jets recalled defenseman Brian Strait on Saturday from the Manitoba Moose after it was announced forward Shawn Matthias will undergo shoulder surgery and will be out for the rest of the season. Rearguard Paul Postma won't suit up against the Wild either as he's battling a lower-body injury.
Matthias, 29, is in his first season with the Jets after signing a two-year, $4.25 million contract last summer. He has eight goals and four assists in 45 games this year, playing primarily on a line with center Adam Lowry and right-winger Joel Armia and missed more than a quarter of the season with a lower-body injury.
"We'd like to have seen him play in the first couple of months a little bit more," Jets coach Paul Maurice said after practice Saturday. "He came back and had some strong play and is now gonna miss the last 12.(He's a) big strong guy. When that line was on their game, they were really good. He is playing with two young guys with Armia and Lowry, and I think he helped them in a lot of ways, trying to define that game, that offensive zone pressure game, the physical game."
The Wild sit in second place in the Central Division and are comfortably above the playoff line but all is not well with the team that rattled off 12 consecutive wins a couple of months ago. It's been nothing but March sadness for Boudreau, who saw his troops lose one more game in regulation this month compared to the previous 38 games.
Boudreau told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he's disappointed to see some players straying from their system and "going on their own course. Everything (should be) running smoothly because we've been doing the same things for six months.
"I've seen them play great, so why wouldn't I think that they're going to fight their way out of it? It doesn't make any sense to think from the body of work that they're not going to fight their way out of this."