The Minnesota Wild take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. Puck drop is slated for 7pm in the midst of an April Snowstorm, but that won’t deter Wild fans from filling the arena. Tonight is an important game, aren’t they all at this juncture of the season? Entering tonight’s action Minnesota is 7th in the Western Conference while the Blues are 6th. The teams are tied with 46 points apiece but St. Louis holds the tie-breaker of more regulation and overtime wins 18 to 17. Tonight’s victor will gain some valuable breathing space between them and the teams in 7th, 8th and 9th positions. That means the WILD NEED TO KICK SOME BUTT TONIGHT. Minnesota is 13-5-1 on home ice this season and they must keep that rolling tonight. With 5 home games out of 9 remaining the Wild must capitalize on that or start cleaning up the golf clubs. If this sounds serious that’s because it is! Detroit is in 8th spot with 43 points, Phoenix is just one point out of a playoff spot, Dallas and Columbus are only 2 points out. Just a couple of losses in succession could be disastrous to Minnesota’s playoff hopes. I’m sure that this article is being mirrored by the writers for the St. Louis Blues as well. This is a great time to be a NHL hockey fan, the playoff positioning push is in full swing and it’s going to be the last games on the last night of the regular season before we know where teams will end up.
The Wilds forward lines will look the same as in Tuesday’s game. That’s because all healthy wings and centermen will be on the ice. Dany Heatley is done for the season after shoulder surgery. Matt Cullen is skating but there is not a date set for his return to action. His line mates are definitely missing his presence. One in particular, Devin Setoguchi needs to step up his game and leadership role according to Head Coach Mike Yeo. The lines for tonight are:
Pominville – Koivu – Parise
Coyle – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
Bouchard – Granlund – Setoguchi
Rupp – Konopka – Mitchell
Defensively Minnesota Head Coach Yeo is trying another combination for the third pair tonight. Tom Gilbert will return to the lineup and pair up with Justin Falk. Nate Prosser will be scratched along with Brett Clark. The Pairs for tonight will be iron man Ryan Suter with rookie sensation Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon with the mistake prone Clayton Stoner and the previously mentioned Falk and Gilbert. St. Louis is a big team so Yeo is going with keeping the big Stoner and Falk in the lineup. Look for a physical game tonight with lots of finished checks from defenders and forwards alike.
Tonight we’ll see if the Wild can turn things around after a disappointing loss to Chicago. Niklas Backstrom will be in net as usual, his 20 wins have him tied with Fleury of the Penguins for the NHL lead. Minnesota will need a strong game once again from their workhorse goaltender. St. Louis will counter with Brian Elliott who has been hot lately. The old mantra of a quick start is repeated here once again. The first goal is key again tonight as both of the teams play better with a lead. The Blues have taken the first two games in the season series. Special teams will be critical as well as the Wild penalty kill has performed well while the powere play has been inconsistent at times. Basically the Wild need to dig deep and do whatever it takes to win this game. No shifts off, NO coasting, NO losing puck battles, No give in at all! GonePuckWild.com will be back after the game with analysis and recap. Until then this is Scott Drain confidently shouting, “LET’S GO WILD!!”