Wild vs. Blues: Let the games (mind and physical) begin

Matchup
St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild
Monday, May 2
8:30 p.m. CST
ESPN
Game 1

The Minnesota Wild begins a first-round playoff series on Monday night. But the games behind the game started this weekend.

Wild coach Dean Evason was coy about his thoughts on who to start in net for Game 1.

“Both had a great practice today,” Evason said in a media session after a Sunday practice.

He was asked if he would say which goalie —  Cam Talbot or Marc-Andre Fleury — is getting the nod in a follow-up question.

“Nope,” was his response.

It was a Bill Belichick-type of response to the media. The though process of not letting your opponent get too much information too far in advance.

“We love to give you our lineup. There’s no bull,” Evason told the media members. “Obviously at this time year we’re not going to. We don’t know sometimes, but sometimes we don’t want to let the other team know what’s going on either. Any little advantage we feel we can gain, we’re going to try and do that. I’m not doing it to spite anybody. It’s just a matter of,  we’ll keep (the decision) pretty close.”

e took the ice on Monday morning’s practice and looked as though  he took the starter’s net. But when asked about it by the media afterward, Evason still wouldn’t tip his hand.

“Is there a starter’s net? Really? I don’t know, I never go for a morning skate,” Evason said stonefaced.

He was asked if Fleury was the guy in a follow-up question.

“Well, you think he is,” Evason said.

There’s no secret how much Wild forward Marcus Foligno wants to be in the lineup on Monday. There is the question of what pain he has to play through to do so, however.

He was a participant in Sunday’s team practice less than 48 hours after he was helped off the ice after he took a knee-on-knee hit from Colorado defenseman Kurtis MacDermid.

“It’s the playoffs. That’s my biggest answer,” Foligno told the gathered media. “Obviously feeling a lott better than (Saturday) and got good news from doc. (The injury) is just something you’ve got to play through for awhile and I can do that. Just put a little extra equipment on the knee. Other than that feel pretty good skating-wise

“I woudn’t be out there if I didn’t feel I could play,” Foligno said. “When I got hit, it felt pretty brutal to be honest. I didn’t have much feeling in my knee or leg . I was worried at the time, couldn’t put much weight on (the leg initially). It was a good skate (on Sunday) and we’ll figure it out (on Monday morning).”

The Wild’s overall gamee is much better when Foligno and his physical game is in the lineup. The hope is he is there for the start of the playoff series with the Blues.

“Obviously he’s got a huge impact on our line,” his fellow linemate Jordan Greenway said. “It was great to see him on the ice (Sunday). We’re fortunate to have him as eager as he is to play. It’s a good position to be in right now.”

The Wild’ put themselves in the position for home-ice advantage in the first-round series. It is the third time Minnesota has faced the Blues in the playoffs within the past decade with each team winning a series (the Wild in 2015 and the Blues in ’17).

The Blues won all three matchups against the Wild during the regular season this year, the final two of which were decided in overtime in St. Louis.

But the games obviously mean more now. 

And the mental and physical battles that is part of the series are just beginning.