Rangers forward Marian Gaborik is likely to get an icy reception tonight from the Wild faithful in his return to Minnesota. The home team being eliminated from playoff contention and New York having posted a 100-point season probably won't help Gaborik's cause either.
The Rangers continue their march towards the top seed in the Eastern Conference tonight against a Wild club that is looking ahead to next season.
New York comes into this game atop the East standings with 101 points, one up on the Penguins for first place in the Atlantic Division. Both clubs have seven games to go and Pittsburgh hosts the New York Islanders tonight.
The Rangers are also just two points behind the Blues for the lead in the overall NHL standings. St. Louis does have a game in hand over New York and hosts Nashville tonight.
The Wild were actually leading the NHL standings in mid-December, but have fallen all the way to 13th in the West with 72 points. That is just one ahead of Edmonton in the conference.
The Wild's future used to be pinned to the jersey of Gaborik, who the club selected third overall in the 2000 draft. Gaborik played in 502 games with the Wild and is the franchise's all-time leader in goals (219), assists (218) and points (437). However, he signed a five-year deal with the Rangers as a free agent following the 2008-09 campaign.
Gaborik will face the Wild for just the second time, having missed two of New York's previous three games versus Minnesota due to injury. His first game against his former club also took place in Minnesota on Nov. 20 of last year, with Gaborik logging an assist in a 5-2 win.
Minnesota countered with a victory in New York on March 3 of last season and has won five of the past eight encounters overall.
The Rangers have won three of their past four games and recorded the seventh 100-point season in franchise history with a 4-3 shootout win over the Maple Leafs. Gaborik scored twice, with his 37th tally of the season putting his club ahead early in the third. However, Toronto responded just 18 seconds later to tie the game and force overtime.
Ryan Callahan then had the winner in the shootout, Brad Richards posted two assists and Henrik Lundqvist ended with 22 saves for the Rangers, whose most recent 100-point campaign came in 2005-06.
"I feel like it's a good win, a good feeling in here," said Callahan. "I thought we played a pretty solid game, we handled the momentum swings pretty well. You get deflated pretty quick when they tie the game back up after you score to go ahead in the third period there, but we kept with it and we got two points in the shootout."
The Wild, meanwhile, have lost five of their past seven and were shut out 3-0 in Washington on Sunday. Matt Hackett allowed three goals on 23 shots faced in Minnesota's eighth shutout loss this season. The Wild are also last in the NHL with just 2.01 goals per game.
"We talked about getting the puck to the net today and we didn't do it," said Minnesota defenseman Steven Kampfer. "We let them dictate the type of game today and that's all on us."
Minnesota opens a three-game homestand tonight and both Matt Kassian (groin) and Jared Spurgeon (questionable) are questionable for tonight, while Matt Cullen is out with a broken finger.