Blues visit Minnesota looking to end skid
(AP) — The Minnesota Wild rebounded nicely from a rare defeat. Now a visit by the struggling St. Louis Blues could help the Wild continue their playoff push.
Minnesota goes for a season-best fifth consecutive home win Monday night against a Blues team that could have newcomer Jordan Leopold in the lineup.
After its seven-game winning streak ended with a 5-3 loss in Dallas on Friday, the Wild (21-11-2) bounced back to defeat Los Angeles 4-3 in a shootout Saturday. Minnesota trailed 3-1 in the second period before Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise scored.
The Wild tied Vancouver with 44 points atop the Northwest Division and have a game in hand.
“All I can say is just huge amounts of character,” said coach Mike Yeo, whose club equaled a team record for victories in a month with 11.
The Wild have been getting big production throughout their lineup. During the 8-1-0 run, Minnesota had six of the top 13 scorers in the NHL in Mikko Koivu (13 points), Parise (11) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Suter (10 apiece).
In the Blues’ last visit to St. Paul on Nov. 19, 2011, Koivu scored twice and Cullen had the winning goal in the shootout in a 3-2 victory. Minnesota has won 13 of the past 16 home matchups.
While the Wild go for their longest home unbeaten streak since a six-game run Oct. 29-Nov. 23, 2011, the Blues (17-14-2) are after their first victory in four tries. They’ve scored four times during their skid, half of those goals coming from Vladimir Tarasenko in a 4-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter how many goals you score and how many plays you make. It’s all about the win,” said Tarasenko, whose first tally ended the club’s 0-for-12 power-play skid.
The Blues are locked in a tight race for one of the final playoff spots in the West. The acquisition of Leopold from Buffalo on Saturday could give them the boost they need in their own end and on the power play, as he regularly manned the point with the man advantage for the Sabres.
The defenseman could be paired with Alex Pietrangelo or Kevin Shattenkirk, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.
“We feel our depth is much more improved as of 3 o’clock today than it was 3 o’clock yesterday,” Armstrong said. “Our goal, first and foremost, we have to get into the playoffs. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re going to have to work hard to maintain our position and improve it.”
The Blues’ goaltending needs to improve, and for now, the team will move forward with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Rookie Jake Allen has provided a big lift by going 8-3-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average, but he was sent to Peoria of the AHL on Saturday.
Elliott, who made 12 saves in a 5-4 overtime home win over Minnesota on Jan. 27, will rejoin the team after a conditioning assignment at Peoria and back up Halak on Monday.
The Wild’s Niklas Backstrom, the NHL leader with 19 victories, has surrendered 11 goals while losing his last two games versus St. Louis and was beaten a season-high five times in the last meeting. However, he’s won a career-best eight consecutive starts after Saturday’s 28-save performance.