If the postseason started today, the St. Louis Blues would be going up against the Minnesota Wild in the opening round.
There figures to be a playoff-like atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center as the Central Division rivals square off for the second time in a week Saturday.
St. Louis (45-20-6) is atop the Central with 96 points, 11 ahead of a Wild team clinging to the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot. However, nobody has compiled a better record since Jan. 27 than Minnesota, which has gone 19-5-1 and allowed an average of 1.64 goals in that span.
The Wild (39-25-7) have picked up three of a possible four points against the Blues after winning 3-1 at St. Louis last Saturday. Devan Dubnyk stopped a season-high 41 shots that night as Minnesota earned its seventh of what has become a franchise-record eight consecutive road victories.
While they’ve thrived away from home, the Wild are 2-4-0 over their last six on their own ice. They’re hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss there after falling 2-1 to Washington on Thursday.
"We’re always dangerous at home, we’re overwhelming here," said Dubnyk, whose team is now 19-11-5 in Minnesota. "We’ll continue to work and tweak some things to make sure that this continues to be a tough place to play."
Each of the Wild’s last seven defeats have been decided by one goal.
"I find that in a lot of these games we’re making one big mistake or there’s a couple breakdowns that we’re making that we haven’t been making on the road lately," coach Mike Yeo said. "This is hockey at this time of year. We’re not that far off, and we’ll try to bounce back in the next one."
The Blues are also looking to regroup following Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss at Winnipeg. David Backes provided the offense as St. Louis went 0 for 3 on the power play, dropping to 5-1-1 in its last seven.
"I said it before the game, it’s playoff-style games, close games, one-goal games," Backes said. "I don’t think either team is terribly disappointed, but we needed two points, and we let it slide."
Brian Elliott, who finished with 33 saves, is 6-2-1 with a 1.41 goals-against average and two shutouts over a nine-start stretch. He stopped just 16 shots against the Wild last weekend, dropping to 6-1-0 with a 1.94 GAA versus Minnesota.
That game marked Dubnyk’s first victory in eight career starts versus St. Louis, against whom he has a 4.22 GAA.
"For some reason, it didn’t seem to matter how good I felt in a game against these guys, it always seemed to end up 4-1 or 5-1 by the end of the game," he said afterward. "It’s nice to get out there with a different team and get one tonight so I can stop thinking about it."
Despite last Saturday’s defeat, the Blues are 10-2-0 over their last 12 against the Wild, winning five of six in Minnesota. St. Louis forward Alexander Steen has 10 points over a 10-game stretch in the series.
Zach Parise leads the Wild with 55 points, but he’s been held to three in his last eight games against St. Louis.
The Blues have limited opponents to 1.88 goals per game during a 12-2-2 stretch away from home.