ST. PAUL - Well, this feels familiar.
It seems like just yesterday the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild were entrenched in a back-and-forth best-of-7 playoff series. And because it feels like yesterday, you can bet the players still have a bitter taste in their mouths about how things went down last April.
“They knocked us out last year and it definitely doesn't sit well with a lot of us. We definitely have something to prove,” said goalie Jake Allen, who will start in goal tonight. “I think they're going to be one of our biggest rivals here soon, just like the Hawks and Nashville.
“They knocked us out last year, so we have (to give them) a little bit of payback.”
Obviously, thanks to a bit of recent division re-alignment and last year’s playoff meeting, St. Louis and Minnesota have developed quite a rivalry.
"Games have gotten more fierce over the last couple of years, physical, high pace,” forward Alexander Steen said. “They've got a lot of speed to their team and so do we. Bunch of heavy bodies too, so they’re usually pretty good games."
The Blues will get their chance at revenge when the rivalry gets renewed tonight at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center (FSMW, Y98 FM). St. Louis is coming off of a 3-1 win in the season opener Thursday against Edmonton. Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer scored while Brian Elliott made 23 saves to secure the win. Meanwhile, Minnesota trailed 4-1 in Colorado after two periods Thursday before Zach Parise completed a hat trick midway through the third period, capping a big come-from-behind 5-4 victory at Pepsi Center.
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he isn’t focusing on last year’s playoff series. Instead, he’s more worried about the resiliency Minnesota showed on Thursday.
“Those are emotional wins when you come back from that far back on the road,” Hitchcock said. “Those can stay with you for weeks. (Minnesota) is one team in the West that kept their group together and made no changes. We expect them to have the most continuity coming out of the gate here. They look like a team that knew exactly what they were doing in the third period (on Thursday), but if we put our game out there, I really like our chances.”
FABBRI’S BIG NIGHT
Rookie Robby Fabbri couldn't have scripted a better NHL debut than the one he experienced Thursday. With his family in the stands at Scottrade Center, Fabbri took an unbelievable no-look backhand pass from linemate Jori Lehtera and buried his first career NHL goal.
“I came off the bench and I saw the play there, but I wasn’t sure if (Lehtera) saw or heard me,” Fabbri said. “For him to make that play, it was an amazing pass.
“It was a great feeling,” Fabbri added of scoring his first goal in front of his family. “To be able to share not only my first game but my first goal with them, it was pretty great.”
Fabbri will be back in the lineup tonight in Minnesota alongside Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz.
Speaking of tonight’s lineup, Hitchcock indicated that the lineup would be very similar to what we saw on Opening Night, with one difference being Robert Bortuzzo being in.
Troy Brouwer, who sustained a lower-body injury on Thursday, will play.
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Jaden Schwartz
Dmitrij Jaskin - David Backes - Troy Brouwer
Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko - Robert Bortuzzo
Newcomer Kyle Brodziak, who spent six seasons with Minnesota, is looking forward to tonight’s meeting. “I've thought about it a lot. It's exciting,” Brodziak said. “I obviously spent some time there and made a lot of friendships. It'll be nice to go there and see the old teammates and the trainers that I built some pretty good friendships over the years. I'm expecting to be a little nervous. I'm just going to try and go in and have fun and play the game. Hopefully I can get a hit or do something good on the first shift and build off that.”
Chris Porter, who spent six years with the Blues, was claimed off waivers by the Wild in the preseason. "It'll be different," Porter told the Pioneer Press of playing against the Blues. "I have a lot of good friends on that team, but in the same sense, it's business as usual. Once the game starts, you kind of put that aside.”
Vladimir Tarasenko had six goals in last year’s playoff series against Minnesota. He has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 16 career games against the Wild.
Allen has allowed two or fewer goals in all eight of his career appearances against the Wild.
After tonight’s game, the Blues will have five games remaining on the season-long six-game road trip. All five games are against Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal). Last season, the Blues were 6-1-2 against Canadian teams on the road.