It’s reunion time. After beating Colorado in a shootout, the Minnesota Wild take on their former coach Mike Yeo and his first-place Blues team in St. Louis.
The divisional foes meet for the first time this season after the Blues bounced the Wild in the first round of the playoffs last spring with a 4-1 series victory, winning Game 5 in St. Paul in overtime. Wild fans probably have a tough time thinking of the memories of the franchise-best season ending with such a thud: Losing Game 1 at home in overtime after dominating in shots on goal, going down 3-0 in the series before finally winning just one game.
Anyway, no need to rehash everything. The Blues lost in the next round (4-2) to the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators, so there’s that.
At present, the Blues (16-6-1) have a stronghold atop the competitive Central Division with 33 points, while the Wild (11-8-3) have struggled to keep their heads above water in the lower rungs. Both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back, though the Blues didn’t have to travel; the Predators shut them out 2-0 in St. Louis on Friday.
Overall, the Wild fare better against the Blues at home rather than on the road where they’re 10-14-8 in St. Louis, but they’ve scored points in 11 of the last 17 meetings (7-6-4). Six of the last 14 games in St. Louis between these two have gone to overtime. Of course, fans will still remember the first-round playoff exit rather than other records. For those wanting to see a glass half-full, just remember when the Wild beat the Blues in the first round of the 2015 playoffs – the first time the Wild clinched a playoff series on home ice.
Nino Niederreiter will look to set a franchise record if he scores a goal to extend his streak to seven games. He’s also scored points in eight straight games. Mikael Granlund has a six-game point streak with four goals and six assists in that span. Jason Zucker has 12 goals this season, ranking him seventh in the league.
Mikko Koivu, who’s going through a goal-less drought, leads the team with 32 points in 46 games against the Blues (10-22—32). Niederreiter has five goals and five assists in 20 games against the Blues.
The Wild’s power play is 8 for 18 in the last five games, and their penalty kill is 28 for 30 over the last 10 games. However, over the last nine meetings, the Blues have successfully killed off 28 of the Wild’s 30 power-play chances.
This season, Jaden Schwartz (11-19—30) and Brayden Schenn (10-20—30) lead the Blues with 30 points; only three players in the NHL have more points. On the Blues, they’re followed by the team’s goal leader Vladimir Tarasenko (12-14—26), who’s scored in three straight games against the Wild.
Former Wild player Kyle Brodziak has two goals and five assists for the Blues. Nate Prosser has also played one game with St. Louis this year.
With Alex Stalock getting the shootout win over Colorado in the first half of the back-to-back, expect to see Devan Dubnyk (9-6-2) in the net against Yeo’s squad. Dubnyk holds a 6-12-2 record with an .890 save percentage in 20 career starts versus St. Louis.
Zach Parise (microdiscectomy surgery), 22 games
Total man games lost: 57
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