ST. PAUL - The Blues look to avoid their first four-game losing streak since last season when they meet the Minnesota Wild (42-26-12, 96 points) tonight at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center (NBCSN, KMOX).
The Blues have lost three in a row for the first time this season. The last time the club lost four straight was Feb. 1 – 11, 2013.
Despite the losing streak, Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he’s seeing improvement.
“We’re making progress. We probably had two sloppy games. Last game we showed a lot of improvement, a lot of good things, so I’d rather build on the positives,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things that I like to see. The feeling with us and the players was that it was a good thing that we saw (Wednesday at practice) and a lot of good stuff (in Tuesday’s game), so we’ve just got to stay with the program.
“If we were guilty of anything, maybe we were guilty of looking too far ahead,” Hitchcock added. “Now the last three games caught our attention. Now it’s back to work.”
The Wild punched their ticket to the playoffs Tuesday night with a 4-3 shootout win against the League-leading Bruins. Minnesota trailed 3-2 in the third period until Ryan Suter scored with 1:05 left to play.
With the shootout win, the Wild locked up the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Since losing 5-1 to the Blues on March 27, Minnesota is 5-0-1, with their only loss coming in overtime on April 3 at Chicago.
“It’s a good challenge for us. They’re winning hockey games and they’ve won their way into the playoffs,” Hitchcock said after Wednesday's practice. “It will be a good test for us…a possible (playoff) opponent.”
Said Brenden Morrow, “We still have three games here to straighten it out and get some momentum. You want to have confidence and momentum going into that first game of the playoffs. Colorado is at our heels. We need to sharpen up.
“It’s been pretty smooth sailing for us throughout the year. Now we’re finding some adversity. We’re going to find out what we’re made of.”
BACKES UPDATE, SOBOTKA MOVES UP
David Backes suffered a lower-body injury in the second period Tuesday vs. Washington and won’t play tonight in Minnesota. He is on the road trip with the team.
"He's going to be out for potentially three games and then play," Hitchcock said. "I don't think it's a big deal."
"It's got speed, tenacity. I'm really excited to see how this looks. It might be something potentially, if it looked really good, that we could potentially move into the playoffs and use it as a line," Hitchcock said. "I want to see how it looks tonight. It would be unbelievable if we could do it. It would give us the positional depth without (Vladimir) Tarasenko that we're looking for. But it has to be a productive line, a threat."
The Blues are riding a franchise-best nine-game winning streak against the Wild. Three of those nine wins were shutouts.
With one more goal, Schwartz (20 years, 3 months) would become the fourth-youngest Blue to reach 25 goals in a season. Only three Blues have reached the milestone at an earlier age: Rod Brind’Amour (19 years, 84 days), Doug Gilmour (20 years, 129 days) and Wayne Babych (20 years, 148 days).
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