Earlier this season, when media and Wild fans were questioning the Wild's somewhat disappointing record on home ice, the team found salvation on the road, a place it struggled mightily last year. Minnesota's ability to earn hard-fought wins away from St. Paul not only lifted its spot in the standings, it created an aura of confidence for the Wild.
Now, as the Wild faces the turmoil of its late-season struggles, the road might again be a place where the team can find its game and create some positive vibes for team morale. A Minnesota victory will also match a franchise record of 19 road wins in a single season (2006-07, 2007-08).
As much as the Wild enjoys playing in front of its own fans, Minnesota must have welcomed the road trip after it closed a 0-3-1 homestand with a 6-3 loss to the Blues Saturday in St. Paul. Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu both registered three assists on a goal Marek Zidlicky and two markers by Antti Miettinen, while Niklas Backstrom earned the loss in a 41-save effort. Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes led St. Louis with a goal and assist each, while Ty Conklin earned the victory with 13 saves.
Wild vs. Blues will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
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You don't have to be in St. Louis to be surrounded by fans watching tonight's game. Head to the Mall of America rotunda at 6 p.m. for the Wild Interactive Viewing Party for tonight's game. Along with a BIG screen to watch the action in St. Louis, you can get an autograph from Wild great Wes Walz, take part in the FS North telecast, play with some cool gadgets from our friends at Best Buy and SONY, and register to win a TON of giveaways. Click here for the list of prizes and all the details on tonight's event.
After a physical home-and-home series with the Blues in February, the Wild ends the season series in St. Louis tonight, finishing off another set of back-to-back games between the teams. Despite Saturday's loss, a victory tonight would give the Wild three wins against the Blues this year, clinch the season series and match the franchise record for most victories against St. Louis in a single season.
By now, the Wild are plenty familiar with the Blues, including the three players with Minnesota connections. The Wild will be happy it doesn't have to worry about Warroad's T.J. Oshie, who has seven points (1-6=7) in his last seven games against Minnesota but was suspended for two games by the Blues this morning after an unexcused absence from yesterday's practice. However, the Wild will still have to face Spring Lake Park's David Backes, who has four points (3-1=4) in his last three games against Minnesota and Minneapolis native Phillip McRae.
Andrew Brunette might be one of the oldest players in the Wild locker room, but you wouldn't know it when he lines up against the Blues. Bruno seems to get hot when he goes up against St. Louis. Brunette assisted on all three Wild goals Saturday and surpassed the 700-point milestone in his career, becoming just the 28th active NHLer to reach the mark. He leads Minnesota with six points (1-5=6) against the Blues this season and 37 points (9-28=37) in 46 career games against St. Louis. Bruno has 12 points (4-8=12) in his past 10 games against the Blues.
It's still all about the W. To say the Wild has been frustrated with its current winless streak is an understatement. It hasn't been an enjoyable ride for the Wild over the past three weeks, and a win tonight would bring some welcome smiles back to the Wild locker room. A loss, and the Wild will go winless in nine consecutive games for the first time in more than nine years (1/19-2/8/02, 0-6-3).
It's difficult to point to just one reason for the Wild's late-season struggles, but you'd be remiss to not mention Mikko Koivu's injury and subsequent absence as a major factor. Since his return to the lineup two weeks ago, the Wild hasn't been able to find the win column, but it isn't because of a lack of production from Kaptain Koivu. With three assists in Saturday's game against the Blues, the 28-year-old has eight points (2-6=8) since his return from injury on March 14, T-6th in the NHL. He has also tallied three multi-point contests in his six contests back in action.
Looking to jumpstart the offense, Head Coach Todd Richards made some line changes towards the end of Saturday's game and has continued to switch things around in practice. Tonight, that will include recently-recalled Casey Wellman taking Chuck Kobsew's spot, who will miss the game with a leg injury:
“We're all in this together. It's me, it's the other coaches, it's all the players; we're all in this together.”
-- Todd Richards on getting out of the recent slump.
RW Backes is from Minneapolis and played his high school hockey at Spring Lake Park before spending three seasons at Minnesota State, Mankato. C Oshie won a state championship with the Warroad Warriors. C McRae, the son of former North Star, Basil, was born in Minneapolis.
The Wild is 15-4-6 in its last 25 one-goal games after beginning the year 0-2-2.