The Minnesota Wild and the state’s love affair with hockey will be on national display on Saturday night.
The Wild make their Winter Classic debut at Target Field against a St. Louis Blues team that beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 in the 2017 Classic at Busch Stadium.
The Wild, who will be playing their first game since Dec. 20, had a team practice on the Target Field rink in part to get familiar on the outdoor ice and see how the puck reacts in the environment
Wild coach Dean Evason allowed himself a few moments just to take in and enjoy the setting.
“You just see the environment, the surroundings,” Evason said. “It’s incredible, especially when you can’t see anything but sky. You see the stadium and then there’s nothing but sky. We’ve talked about it already and we’ll talk about it again (Saturday) to use this experience to motivate, to energize and to get us excited but play how we want to play.
“Yes we have a different environment, use it,” Evason said of his message to his players. “But it’s still the same thing. When the puck is dropped, it’s hockey and you’re still playing your butt off. ”
St. Louis leads the Central Division with 41 points, one more than both the Wild and Nashville Predators. Minnesota has earned points in 21 of its last 34 contests against the Blues (15-13-6). St. Louis went 4-2-2 against the Wild last season.
The Winter Classic marks the first matchup between the two division rivals this year.
“It’s going to be unique the whole time,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said of the game. “It’s not like any other game even though you want to say that and approach the game like that. You want to prepare and focus in on it because getting a win makes it all that more special.”
Winter Classic history
2008-Pittsburgh 2, Buffalo 1 (SO) at Ralph Wilson Stadium
2009-Detroit 6, Chicago 4 at Wrigley Field
2010-Boston 2, Philadelphia 1 (OT) at Fenway Park
2011-Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1 at Heinz Field
2012-New York Rangers 3, Philadelphia 2 at Citizens Bank Park
2013-not held due to NHL lockout.
2014-Toronto 3, Detroit 2 (SO) at Michigan Stadium
2015-Washington 3, Chicago 2 at Nationals Park
2016-Montreal 5, Boston 1 at Gillett Stadium
2017-St. Louis 4, Chicago 1 at Busch Stadium
2018-New York Rangers 3, Buffalo 2 (OT) at Citi Field
2019-Boston 4, Chicago 2 at Notre Dame Stadium
2020-Dallas 4, Nashville 2 at Cotton Bowl
2021-postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Wild vs. Blues odds on WynnBET has Minnesota a 1.5 goal favorite in the Winter Classic. The moneline is a near draw with Wild listed as -115 favorites with the Blues being the slight underdog at -105. The total goals is set at an over/under of six.
Upcoming Wild schedule
Monday, Jan. 3: @Ottawa, 6:30 p.m. CST
Thursday, Jan. 6: @Boston, 6 p.m. CST
Saturday, Jan 8: Washington, 7 p.m. CST