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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big-spending Wild barely squeak into post-season

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DENVER -- Lounging in front of his locker, music blaring in the background, Mikko Koivu chatted about what it meant to the team, the organization and the city to make it back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Yeah, but what about him? What did it mean to him?

Only then did the gravity of the moment begin to dawn on the captain of the Minnesota Wild.

"This," Koivu said, "is a big deal."

That's putting it mildly.

Devin Setoguchi broke a second-period tie and Niklas Backstrom stopped 29 shots, helping the Wild secure the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

Zach Parise scored and Pierre-Marc Bouchard added a late empty-net goal for the Wild, who earned the No. 8 seed and will face top-seeded Chicago in the first round of the post-season. Minnesota had a chance to wrap up a spot on Friday, but fell 6-1 at home to Edmonton.

That lopsided loss led to an anxious 24 hours. It also led to a team meeting, when coach Mike Yeo got to look into the eyes of his players and see if they were ready.

They were, too.

"I was very confident going into today, knowing the group we have, knowing the leadership we have, seeing how we've responded in the past," Yeo said. "If you're not on the inside and don't know the guys you have, it's a little more difficult (to understand)."

The Wild were thought to be almost a lock for the post-season after investing $196 million in free agents Ryan Suter and Parise. But they had to sweat it out to the last game of the regular season.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2013 B3

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