With the St. Louis Blues playing on back-to-back days, goaltender Ryan Miller might get a rest after a stellar start with his new team.
The Blues could turn to Brian Elliott in their attempt to take over the Western Conference lead with a win Sunday night at the Minnesota Wild, who might also give recent acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov his first start.
St. Louis (43-14-6) has continued to drive toward a second division title in three seasons and kept the pressure on Western Conference-leading Anaheim since acquiring Miller from Buffalo on Feb. 28. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner improved to 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his first four games with the Blues after a 2-1 win in Colorado on Saturday.
Miller made 26 saves in that victory and Patrik Berglund scored a key goal early in the third period, his fourth in four games. That win pushed St. Louis within one point of Anaheim, which is idle until Monday.
"I’m just trying to fit in. I’m not here to save the day or anything," Miller said. "I’m here to become part of this club and work my way in, keep good habits. I’ve played a long time and think I have a lot to offer. That’s my job right now."
Miller’s job Sunday might be to encourage Elliott, who hasn’t started since Feb. 28 despite boasting one of the NHL’s top GAA’s at 2.08. The backup goaltender will try to help St. Louis at least maintain a four-point divisional lead over Chicago, which plays in Buffalo on Sunday.
The Blues are also seeking to add to 14-game win streak versus Central teams, against whom they’re 17-0-1. Their 20 road wins are tied with Colorado for most in the league, and they’ve won seven in a row overall against Minnesota (34-22-7).
St. Louis has won three straight at the Xcel Energy Center, including a 2-1 victory there Dec. 31 in the most recent matchup. Elliott made 24 saves in that win while T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz scored both goals in the second period.
The Blues have allowed a combined two goals in their last four matchups with the Wild, and Elliott posted a 2-0 shutout in Minnesota on April 11. Former goaltender Jaroslav Halak was part of a 3-0 home win over the Wild on Nov. 25.
Elliott is 5-0-0 with a 1.83 GAA in six career games against Minnesota and has allowed a combined two goals in his last three matchups for a 0.75 GAA.
The Wild, seventh in the West, had a season-high, five-game win streak snapped with a 4-3 loss in Dallas on Saturday. Darcy Kuemper allowed two goals in the final 8:49 in his 16th consecutive start, including the tiebreaker with 4:49 to go.
Like Miller, Kuemper might be on the bench Sunday so Minnesota can start Bryzgalov. The Wild acquired the veteran from Edmonton on Tuesday for a fourth-round draft pick.
Bryzgalov was 5-8-5 with a 3.01 GAA in 20 games for the Oilers but is hoping a change of scenery will lead to better results.
"I look at this as a great opportunity for me to play, and yeah it’s like a new challenge," he said.
Bryzgalov has given up a combined 10 goals in two losses to the Blues this season, including a season high in a 6-0 defeat in Edmonton on Dec. 21. He’s 2-5-1 with a 3.96 GAA in his last eight matchups.
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will move ahead of Ron Wilson into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time wins list with a victory Sunday.