Wild-Blue Jackets Preview

The Minnesota Wild are known for great goaltending.

The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t have last season’s Vezina Trophy

winner for an extended period of time.

The Wild seek a third straight win Friday night when they visit

a Blue Jackets team adjusting to life without Sergei Bobrovsky.

These teams battled to the final day of the regular season in

2012-13, with Minnesota edging out Columbus for the Western

Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. While the Blue Jackets

have moved to the East, the Wild have shown that they have learned

from their first-round loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion

Chicago by beating the Blackhawks in two of three meetings this

season, including Thursday’s 4-3 home win.

”Against a team like Chicago, coming back, it feels good,”

said Marco Scandella, who scored the winner with 1:48 left. ”It’s

a great feeling in the room right now. We battled all game. We

stuck with it, which is the important thing.”

Josh Harding made 16 saves to improve to 15-4-3 with a

league-best 1.52 goals-against average. If he doesn’t start, it’ll

be Niklas Backstrom – who he has a 1.95 GAA in his last three

starts.

Minnesota (16-8-5) ranks fourth in the NHL with a 2.20 GAA.

Columbus (11-14-3) won’t be able to count on Bobrovsky, placed

on injured reserve Wednesday with a groin strain that will sideline

him for four to five weeks. He suffered the injury in Tuesday’s 1-0

victory over Tampa Bay.

Curtis McElhinney finished that shutout with eight saves and

will take over as the starter.

“Based on Curtis’ play what I’ve seen so far this year, there’s

nothing for me that would lead to suggest that I’m expecting bad

things,” coach Todd Richards said. “In the games that he’s played,

he’s played well.”

Minnesota ended a 0-for-11 drought on the power play by scoring

twice in three chances Thursday. Coach Mike Yeo, however, wasn’t

too giddy about beating the reigning champions.

“We don’t have a whole lot of time to get too emotional about

this one, to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “It’s a good win, but

we’ve got another test tomorrow. They’re (the Blue Jackets) sitting

there waiting for us, they didn’t play tonight. It’s going to be a

good challenge. We’ve got a lot of respect for that team, we know

that they’re going to play very hard in their building.”

The Wild went 2-0-1 against the Blue Jackets last season and

will face a Columbus team missing former Minnesota star Marian

Gaborik and Nathan Horton.

The Blue Jackets will have forward Derek MacKenzie, activated

off injured reserve Thursday after he missed five games with a

strained back.

Columbus is seeking consecutive victories for the first time

since a three-game win streak Oct. 20-25. The Blue Jackets have

alternated wins and losses in their last nine.

“Do you have an answer? Because I’ve tried,” Richards said

Tuesday. ”Tonight was a good step. I think there’s things we can

build off. It doesn’t guarantee anything against Minnesota on

Friday.”

Minnesota’s Ryan Suter has 13 points in an eight-game streak

versus Columbus.