Wild's first-round playoff opponent will be Vegas or Colorado

·3 min read

Anybody, anywhere, anytime is how the Wild has approached the regular season, but the rallying cry is even more fitting for the playoffs.

The Wild is days away from kicking off the first round of the postseason, but who the team is playing, where the series will start or when puck will drop is remains unclear.

Not only is seeding between the Golden Knights and Avalanche still up for grabs as they vie for the West Division crown, but home-ice advantage for the Wild is also in play as the team begins the first of two final dress rehearsals Wednesday at St. Louis.

"That's the mentality we've had all season, just be ready," winger Marcus Foligno said. "Obviously, we know it's going to be either Vegas or Colorado. Either one is a tough matchup, and we're looking forward to that challenge."

Clarity on the Wild's situation could arrive as soon as Wednesday night.

While the Golden Knights are closing out their regular season on the road against the Sharks, the Avalanche will be playing host to the Kings in the first half of a back-to-back. And the Avalanche is in control of its destiny — and the Golden Knights'.

Even if Vegas wins its last game, Colorado can still claim the top spot by sweeping its final two games. That would equal a tie in the standings, but the Avalanche holds the tiebreaker — possessing more regulation victories. A Golden Knights win and Avalanche loss in any fashion Wednesday locks up first place for Vegas.

Should Vegas lose at San Jose in regulation, Colorado needs only one victory over Los Angeles or a pair of extra-time losses to close the gap and trigger the tiebreaker.

And if Vegas gets one point in its finale from losing in overtime or a shootout, Colorado has two options to finish first: Win both games or combine a victory with an overtime/shootout loss.

But the Avalanche's next move won't only affect the Golden Knights; it will also decide whether playing host to Game 1 remains a possibility for the Wild.

At 75 points, the Wild can only surpass Colorado (78 points) if the Wild wins out and the Avalanche loses out; ending up tied doesn't lift the Wild past Colorado since the Avalanche also has the tiebreaker vs. the Wild. And if the Wild does move up to second from third to snag home ice, the team will face Colorado. The Wild can't catch Vegas (80 points).

So while a few different scenarios could pan out, all the Wild can directly dictate is its own preparation for the playoffs.

"There's no sense worrying about outside distractions or what other teams are doing or where the standings are and all that," coach Dean Evason said. "We know we're in the playoffs. They're going to tell us where we play at the end of the season and who we play, and we'll be ready."

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start Wednesday for the Wild, and the team will deploy its usual lineup before reassessing how it will close out the regular season Thursday.

"You want to go in with your group," Evason said, "but yet there might be some people you might want to rest. The good thing for us is we just had two complete days off plus a practice day."

And what the Wild is looking to accomplish in this last run-through is cutting back on breakdowns and staying within its structure, signs that players are ready for whoever they face in the postseason — whenever that starts.

"We're just worried about ourselves," captain Jared Spurgeon said, "and being a consistent team and going into the playoffs playing good hockey."

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