MONTREAL - The best-kept secret in the NHL right now might be the Minnesota Wild.
While the Wild have stolen the spotlight in the Twin Cities, it's the Columbus Blue Jackets - riding a 10-game winning streak under polarizing coach John Tortorella - that have claimed the NHL spotlight.
Despite an eight-game winning streak, and nine-game points streak, the Wild have gone relatively unnoticed on a national stage.
"We have a lot guys that are playing good," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We just don't get much recognition."
That seems to bother Boudreau.
A few weeks ago, while playing in Toronto, he remarked that if Devan Dubnyk played in that media market - one many consider the Mecca of pro hockey - there wouldn't even be a debate as to whether he's been the best goaltender in the NHL.
"If he was in Toronto, there'd be no Carey Price media-wise" Boudreau said when asked about Vezina Trophy race.
If the lack of attention has been eating at Boudreau, a couple of wins over Eastern Conference juggernauts Thursday and Friday would make the Wild darn near impossible to ignore. The Wild will play the Canadians here Thursday night, then turn right around and play the New York Rangers on Friday.
"It's going to be a great test for us," Boudreau said. "You never go into it saying, 'Bring 'em on.' That is not what we're doing. We are going in there to see if we're really playing well, or if it's sort of a masquerade right now."
The Wild's hot streak has featured wins over a few middling teams, as well as the two worst teams in the NHL but has the Wild sitting firmly in second place in the Central Division heading into their biggest test of the season.
"These are going to be two tough games here before Christmas," Dubnyk said.
That might be an understatement. The Canadiens lead the Atlantic Division, and the Rangers are tied for first in the Metropolitan Division.
Boudreau said he likes the way the WIld are playing right but sees room for improvement.
"We still have to get 20 guys the right way," he said. "Sometimes it's 14 or 15 guys, and we're getting away with it. There have been other games that we have relied on our goaltending way too much. As coaches, we're never happy. Until we get the perfect game, we'll keep plugging away."
As hot as the Wild have been, they still are chasing the Chicago Blackhawks, who boast a six-point lead in the Central.
"Chicago doesn't seem to be letting the foot off the gas," Wild center Eric Staal said. "We have to make sure we're doing the same thing. ... If we want to catch them and be first place in the (Central Division), we have to keep pounding up the points, too."
Staal added that it has been easy to stay engaged throughout the winning streak because Boudreau is accustomed to winning like this. In 10 seasons, his teams have won eight division titles.
That feeling seems to have permeated up and down the lineup.
"I think our team has taken the mentality that this is normal to him," fourth-liner Kurtis Gabriel said. "He wants a bunch of these winning streaks. It's business as usual. I think that mentality is going to serve us better later in the season."
In the meantime, the Wild continue flying under the radar, whether Boudreau likes it or not.
"We have been OK for 30-something games," he said. "I don't know who we're supposed to beat in the NHL, because every team is pretty equal right now. It isn't until March (when) we see some real separation of teams. We are trying to put our best foot forward every night, and lately it has been successful."
A couple of more wins before Christmas, which would stretch the winning streak to a franchise-record 10 games, and the rest of the league might actually start to take notice.
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.