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Updated: March 18th, 2011 12:39am
Playoff hopes fading fast for Wild, which falls in San Jose

Playoff hopes fading fast for Wild, which falls in San Jose

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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This, the pessimist will say, is how it ends. The Minnesota Wild went on the road for four critical games, desperately needing points to stay relevant in the race for the playoffs in the Western Conference, and they lost all four.

Thursday night's 3-2 defeat in San Jose sends the wild winging for home on an ugly losing streak, when losses can hardly be afforded.

Yes but, the optimist will say, the Wild played close games in their last two. Indeed, there were signs of improvements in the latter stages of the road trip. After embarrassing and lifeless 4-0 losses in both Nashville and Dallas, the Wild played close games in both Vancouver and San Jose. But the end results were the same: four games total, zero points total.

Sure, the numbers-crunchers will point to signs for optimism, like the Wild scoring in the first period, on the road, for the first time in their past six games away from St. Paul. Still, versus a San Jose team that has gotten hot at the right time, it wasn't enough.

The Wild stayed close, on goals by John Madden and Kyle Brodziak and was tied 2-2 with the Sharks in the third period. And that's where it ended, after Patrick Marleau's power play goal with five minutes elapsed in the third gave the team from Silicon Valley enough to get the crucial two points. Niklas Backstrom stopped a whopping 47 of the 50 shots he faced, but again, it was a little less than enough on this night.

Amazingly, the Wild still sits in 11th place in the Western Conference - a sign of the ineptitude beneath. But the team is now six points (three wins) back of Calgary in the race for the final playoff spot, and the calendar is not on their side.

After a long time on the road, back-to-back home games with Columbus and Montreal loom on Saturday and Sunday. Four points in those two is an absolute must, or playing in late April is a dream and nothing more.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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