Blues-Wild Preview

Last season, the St. Louis Blues snapped a five-year playoff

drought thanks to an impressive late run.

They may be at it again in 2009-10.

The Blues will try to aid their postseason hopes with an eighth

win in nine tries as they conclude a season-high six-game road trip

Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

St. Louis was last in the Western Conference as late as Feb. 11

last season, but rallied to reach the playoffs for the first time

since 2004 by winning nine of its last 11 games.

The Blues haven’t spent much time in the cellar this season, but

they have dwelt in the bottom half of the standings much of the


That may be changing. St. Louis (32-26-9) has gone 7-1-0 since

Feb. 8, in the process climbing into 10th place in the West and

within five points of eighth-place Detroit.

“We’re probably playing the best hockey we’ve played all year.

It’s a good sign,” forward Andy McDonald said. “We have no other


A 5-1 win in Columbus on Saturday night gave the Blues 30 goals

in their last eight games. They’ve allowed 18 during that


Alex Steen and McDonald have 12 and 11 points, respectively,

during the hot streak. McDonald had a goal and two assists in

Saturday’s victory, while Steen contributed a goal and an


Three other Blues players have also recorded at least eight

points over the last eight games, including Paul Kariya with four

goals and five assists.

The Wild (32-26-9) are 12th in the West and eight points back of

the Red Wings. They had been outscored 13-6 during a four-game

losing streak, but ended the skid Friday night with a 3-2 victory

in Buffalo.

Andrew Ebbett and Guillaume Latendresse scored in the first

10:11, and Josh Harding bounced back from a poor effort with a

season-high 43 saves.

After starter Niklas Backstrom hurt his groin in a pregame skate

Thursday, Minnesota called upon Harding to make his first

appearance since Feb. 4. He gave up five goals in a loss to


“I didn’t play in a month before that game in Detroit, so I knew

I was going to be a little shaky. But I didn’t expect to be that

shaky,” Harding said. “So I had to forget about the past and look

forward to the future.”

With Backstrom’s status still uncertain, the Wild could look to

Harding again Sunday. The fifth-year goaltender has a 1.74

goals-against average in seven career appearances against St. Louis

but is just 3-2-0.

Minnesota has dropped four of five at home overall, but has won

nine of 11 home matchups with the Blues including the last two.

Latendresse had two goals to lead the Wild over St. Louis 4-3 on

Dec. 26.