With the Anaheim Ducks locking up the Pacific Division with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks last night, the Minnesota Wild’s first round playoff opponent has been narrowed down to Anaheim, the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche.
Minnesota has done everything right to avoid a quarterfinal matchup with the Blues. Unfortunately, the Notes seem to relish the thought of an easy four-and-done series with the Wild. Their upcoming schedule isn’t the easiest either. St. Louis hasn’t lost to Minnesota yet this season, but Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t exactly going to tell his players to tuck tail and run tonight in order to help the Blues get back into the top seed. After Minnesota, St. Louis then has games with the Dallas Stars–a team desperate to get back into the playoffs–and the Detroit Red Wings, who just secured their 23rd straight playoff appearance with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So, in a must-lose situation, the Wild host the St. Louis Blues in what could be a very big game no matter the outcome. If Minnesota wins, it proves St. Louis isn’t unbeatable, and that’s a very reassuring thing should a first round matchup with the Blues occur. If the Wild doesn’t win, the Blues are back on top of the Western Conference, at least for the moment. For more on tonight’s game, Scott will have your preview up shortly.
Tonight is expected to be the NHL debut of Swedish defenseman Christian Folin. Folin, 23, is a 6’3″ 215-pound right-shot physical blue liner that makes a crisp first pass and wields an NHL-caliber shot from the point. He’s expected to take the place of top pairing right-shot Jared Spurgeon. With two games left, tonight will likely be the only time Folin gets into the lineup as Yeo will look to do a quick roster tune up in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Nashville Predators.
However, even if it’s just for one game, there’s no question tonight could be huge for Folin’s development. The Blues have arguably been the best team in the league for most of the season. They’re big, physical–tough as nails–with a stingy defense and have a serious Conn Smythe contender in Ryan Miller between the pipes. A game against the Notes while receiving considerable minutes should give the Wild’s newest top defensive prospect a good idea what he needs to work on and improve during the offseason in order to force his way into the lineup for good. Folin will wear sweater No. 5 with Minnesota.
Also expected to make his Wild debut tonight is goaltender John Curry. Curry, 30, has spent most of this season going back and forth between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and the AHL’s Iowa Wild. Tonight, he could make his first NHL start since January 16th, 2010. Originally signed by the Penguins upon conclusion of his four-year collegiate career with Boston University, Curry has notched a 2-2 record with a 3.79 goals against average and a .868 save percentage in four career NHL games. In 19 games with Iowa this season, Curry has posted a 7-9-2 record to go with a 2.62 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and a shutout. He wears sweater No. 33 with the Wild.
Scott will have the full game preview up shortly.