Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Wild hosted the St. Louis Blues and skated away with a 2-1 win, sending the Blues to a 6-7-0 record. A day later, Head Coach Davis Payne was fired, Ken Hitchcock was hired and the Blues have gone 4-0-1 to move into a tie for sixth in the Western Conference. Of course, things have gone fairly well for the winners of that game two weeks ago. The Wild won four of their next six and shot to the top of the Northwest Division and the second spot in the Western Conference.
The Wild kicked off its current six-game homestand with a 1-0 shutout over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Niklas Backstrom stopped all 27 shots he faced and held the fort until Devin Setoguchi broke the scoreless tie with just 2:31 left to go in regulation. It was Backstrom’s second shutout on the year, and Setoguchi’s second game-winner.
The Blues picked up their fourth win in five games on Thursday with a 4-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers. David Backes scored twice while Chris Porter and Kris Russell also scored. Jaroslav picked up the win in a 20-save effort.
Wild vs. Blues will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or monetary donations for the Minnesota Wild Toyota Food Drive, which will be held tonight. Donations will be accepted at all Xcel Energy Center entrances from 6:00 p.m. until the end of the first period.
The meeting between these two clubs was one of the most hotly contested and testiest matchups the Wild have had this season. At one point, there were 11 players in the penalty boxes at one time. In that game, the Blues got frustrated and tried to take over the game physically.
Since the Hitchcock era started, the Blues seem to have found a way to win with their large stock of talent. Prized defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has been leading the way with a goal and four assists since Hitchcock got behind the bench.
Setoguchi now has a goal in each of the last two games, and if he starts feeling it, his line could start heating up at the right time with five more games remaining on the homestand.
Dating back to last year’s meeting that capped off Hockey Day Minnesota, these two teams have not gotten along well on the ice. That was apparent two weeks ago. But with the recent surge by the Blues, this won’t be a case of a team out of the race getting chippy with a first place team. The Blues are showing they could be serious contenders in the West. That doesn’t mean tempers won’t continue to flare up when the puck is dropped.
Jared Spurgeon missed yesterday’s practice due to being a little banged up. While losing key defensemen has become routine in recent weeks, the Wild would really miss what Spurgeon has brought. With Marek Zidlicky sidelined, Spurgeon is the Wild’s biggest threat to join the rush and contribute some offensive playmaking from the blueline.
Casey Wellman was assigned to Houston yesterday, meaning the Wild will use the same lineup as Thursday:
Spurgeon did skate today and appears ready to go tonight:
Backstrom is coming off a shutout, but Josh Harding was brilliant against the Blues in the last meeting and will get the start tonight.
There won’t be any healthy scratches tonight.
Mike Lundin (back) was assigned to Houston yesterday for a conditioning assignment as he nears a return. Greg Zanon (groin), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Zidlicky (concussion) and Scandella (concussion) are all out.
"We've played so many one-goal games, played in so many tight games, the guys are comfortable in those situations. There's a good belief every night we step on the ice that there's an opportunity to win a hockey game. We're doing a lot of good things. But I know with this group and the attitude we have, and the character and leadership that we have, we will continue to get better."
- Mike Yeo on how his team has been able to come out on top in so many close games
Backes played his high school hockey at Spring Lake Park before starring for three years at Minnesota State, Mankato…RW Jamie Langenbrunner is a native of Cloquet and led the Lumberjacks to a state tournament appearance…T.J. Oshie won a Class A title with the Warroad Warriors.
The Wild has played 12 one-goal games this year, winning seven of them and losing just two in regulation.