Blues aim for home-and-home sweep of Wild
WILD (35-32-8) at BLUES (34-32-9)
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Minnesota 1-7-2; St. Louis 6-4-0
This is the last of four games between these clubs. Minnesota holds the advantage with a win each in regulation and the shootout, while the Blues won the most recent matchup, 6-3, this past Saturday at St. Paul, Minn.
Minnesota and St. Louis wrap up the back end of their home-and-home series and neither club can afford to lose this game if it hopes to hang on to its slim hopes of making the playoffs. As of Monday, the Wild were 10 points away from the Western Conference's eighth-seeded Blackhawks, while the Blues would have to make up an 11-point deficit. With that said, Minnesota and St. Louis would still need a lot of help even if either was to win out the final eight games remaining on each of their respective schedules.
Minnesota was right in the thick of the playoff race at the beginning of March, but getting just three points out of a possible 24 this month has put the Wild in the bottom half of the West standings. They're winless in their last eight overall.
If nothing else comes of Tuesday's game, the Wild will at least want to bounce back and avenge their 6-3 loss to the Blues on Saturday. Coach Todd Richards kept the locker room closed off to reporters until 30 minutes after the game ended and held a team meeting with his players and staff.
"What we say and what we do in there will stay between the players and the coaches and the staff," Richards told reporters after the closed-door session commenced.
While St. Louis has an even steeper hill to climb than Minnesota, it has certainly fared a lot better recently. The Blues will seek a third consecutive win Tuesday and their fourth victory in six games.
The Blues were tied with the Wild 2-2 entering the second period, but distanced themselves with a goal from Chris Stewart
seven minutes in and then another from David Backes
just 23 seconds later.
"Anytime you can get a big swing of momentum it's going to have an influence on the game," Stewart told reporters following the game. "That's where we kind of took over and got the bounces from there on in."
Right wing Antti Miettinen scored twice for Minnesota in Saturday's loss. … For the Blues, Stewart is in the midst of a three-game point streak with 2 goals and 1 assist over that span.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky was back in the lineup for Minnesota on Saturday after sitting out the last two weeks with a lower-body injury. Right wing Cal Clutterbuck (illness) also returned to game action on Saturday. Cam Barker (back), Josh Harding (knee), Guillaume Latendresse (lower body), Marco Scandella (finger) and James Sheppard (knee) remain out for the Wild. … For the Blues, center Vladimir Sobotka
(foot) continues to practice and could be back before season's end, while winger David Perron
(concussion-like symptoms) remains sidelined. Barret Jackman
(finger) and Alexander Steen
(ankle) are both out for the season.
The Wild are second-to-last in the Western Conference with an average of 2.48 goals scored per game.
The Blues probably realize that the playoffs are not in the cards for this season, but that fact has done little to dampen their spirits.
"We'll keep playing hard until the end of the season whether we're eliminated or not. There's a lot of pride in this room," Backes said following Saturday's win.