MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Wild departed for Winnipeg and game one of the Stanley Cup play-offs tomorrow. One thing they know for certain — the Jets will focus part of their game plan on the Wild’s No. 1 goal scorer.

It’s been a remarkable season for Eric Staal — scoring his way to the top, getting his team in a position to keep competing.

“It’s a lot of fun. This is the best time of the year,” he said. “You’ve got to soak it in. It’s so much fun. It’s still hockey, but it’s amped up to another level. The energy, the atmospheres in all the buildings.”

Staal has been able to change the vibe, and put pressure on the opposition. That means a lot in the post season.

“He had a great season and scored some timely goals, some big goals, some important ones for us,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “We’ve got to hope that magic continues throughout the postseason for us, because we’re going to need it from everybody.”

Staal had 42 goals in the regular season, which is impressive. So the question becomes: Is it different in the playoffs when you’re a “marked man?”

The game is amped up in the postseason, and that means Staal is at the top of the scouting report.

“Obviously I’ve had a good season, as far as goal-scoring goes, so I’m sure it will be contested and tight” Staal said. “Guys are going to be aware. That’s just how it works.”

They’re aware — just like his teammates.

“He was playing really good hockey last season, too, and obviously if you get over 40 goals, that’s an unbelievable mark,” Wild forward Mikael Granlund said. “So he’s been really good and hopefully he’ll be doing good in the playoffs.”


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