It’s go time for the Minnesota Wild tonight as they take on the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. Puck drop is 7pm in front of a national TV audience on NBC Sports Network. Tonight’s game features the two hottest teams in the NHL for the month of November. The Wild sport a 9-1-1 record this month to a 9-2-1mark for the Blues. As if that’s not enough the Wild trail St. Louis by just a point in the Central Division standings. Fresh off a win on a day filled with adversity in Winnipeg Saturday the Wild lineup has settled down a bit, just a bit. Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal after a short notice start vs the Jets in which he was incredible taking the shootout win. Mike Rupp will be making his season debut tonight after finishing his rehab for off season knee surgery. He’s spent the last 5 games down in Des Moines with the Iowa Wild on a conditioning stint. Rupp will be skating on the 4th line with Zenon Konopka and Dany Heatley. I’d call this the “Beef Line”, they’re all bulls and will run you over if you get in their way. The rest of the forward lines shake out like this. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter on the top line. Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker will be line number 2. The third line includes Justin Fontaine, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke. This is the group that will be charged with scoring some goals against a Blues team that allows just 2.23 goals a game on average. The Wild are no slouches in the goals against department as well ranking 6th in the league, 2 spots higher than St. Louis, giving up just 2.17 goals per game on an average of just 25.3 shots allowed.
Defensively the Wild will go with 6 defensemen tonight. The pairings are Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, and Clayton Stoner skating with Nate Prosser. Mathew Dumba will be a healthy scratch. The Wild D will be charge with shutting down a St. Louis offense that scores and average of 3.46 goals a game. That’s nearly a goal more than Minnesota’s 2.54 average. The Blues are a big, physical team and like to punish opponents with lots of hits and tight defensive play.
While Backstrom is in net for the Wild, Darcy Kuemper is his back up tonight. This should be a slightly more relaxed and normal game prep for the Minnesota net minders. Kuemper had to scramble to get back to the arena in Winnipeg and get his gear back after finding himself waiting at the gate for his flight to Des Moines when the call came in that Josh Harding had been injured in warm ups and couldn’t make the start Saturday afternoon. Backstrom is 6-8-1 in 15 starts against the Blues. For the season he is 2-1-2 with a goals against of 3.03 and .892 save percentage. Across the ice will be Blues goal tender Jaroslav Halak who brings a record of 12-3-2 with a goals against average of 2.34 and a .906 save percentage.
This should be a good test for the Wild as they face a number of the top teams in the Western Conference over the next couple of weeks. By mid December we should know where the Minnesota Wild stand against the best the Central Division and the Western Conference have to offer. I’m getting back on the horse after a little accident with an air nailer early this month that ended with me in trauma surgery with two nails in my left chest. My recovery is progressing well to this point. I’ll be back after tonight’s action with a recap and some analysis of the action. Until then this is Scott Drain saying, “Let’s Go Wild!”
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