The Minnesota Wild face the St. Louis Blues tonight at the Xcel Enregy Center. The Blues come in on a three game losing streak and are currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference and an overall record of 17-14-2. The Wild are coming off an exciting come from behind shoot out victory over the L.A. Kings on Staurday. Minnesota is in first place in the Northwest Division and third place in the conference based on the first tiebreaker with the Canucks. The Wild face the Blues for the second time this season and the first on home ice. St. Louis took the first game in OT back on January 27th. The Wild need the win tonight to keep pace in the tight Western Conference with just 7 points spanning third through eighth place. The Wild are hot right now with just two losses in their last 10 games.
Minnesota is playing some of the best hockey of the season right now with a 21-11-2 record and an outstanding 13-3-1 record on home ice. The Wild are coming off one of their best months in team history with 11 wins to 4 losses The team has one of the best top lines in the league with Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. Koivu has 19 points in his last 14 games and is on a 7 game point streak, he leads the team in points with 33. Parise leads the Wild in goals with 15 and is second in points with 30. The second line of Matt Cullen, Devina Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard has been fantastic as well and have become a threat to score every time they step on the ice. Tonights forward lines will be: Parise – Koivu – Coyle, Bouchard – Cullen – Setoguchi, Heatley – Brodziak – Clutterbuck, Mitchell – Konopka – Rupp.
Defensively the Wild willl send out the same 6 defensmen as last game. Brett Clark made his Wild debut and looked very comfortable and poised throughout the night. The top pair of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin continue to be impressive game in game out. Suter leads the league in ice time averaging 27:18 per game and is currently tied for the lead in points by defensemen with 28 and assists at 25. Hi really is the #1 D-man the Wild have been needing. Rookie Brodin is thriving as Suter’s partner and is a +9 in the last 9 games and a +7 for the season. He leads NHL rookie defensemen in ice time, averaging 22:41 a game. Jared Spurgeon and partner Clayton Stoner will be in action with the final pair being Tom Gilbert and Brett Clark.
Niklas Backstrom will be starting in goal tonight. Backstrom is 6-6-1 with a 2.83 goals against average, a .899 save percentage and one shutout in 13 starts against the Blues during his career with the Wild. Backstrom is 19-7-2 overall this season. He looked very strong against the Kings and Moved to 4-1 on the season in shoot outs. Let’s just hope he gets enough goal support from his teammates that he gets the win in regulation. Backstrom has won 8 straight starts setting both personal best and team record marks.
The Wild will need to control play right from the start tonight and jump out to an early lead. The penalty kill has struggled the last few games so they need to stay out of the box and limit St. Louis’ power play opportunities. This will be a well rested Blues team, who have been off for the past couple of days. The Wild had yesterday off so rest shouldn’t be an issue for them tonight. Puck drop is at 7 pm tonight. GonePuckWild will be back after the action with analysis and a full recap. Until then this is Scott Drain yelling “LET’S GO WILD!!”