ST. PAUL, MN - Chris Porter said he’s pretty sure he’s in the lineup every time the Blues play in Minnesota.
And that’s just fine with him.
Porter was born in Toronto but later moved to Fairbault, MN, where he attended high school. Tonight, he’ll play in front of about 15 to 20 friends and family, including his parents and sister.
“I’m from Ontario, but I call this home,” Porter said Saturday after the morning skate at Xcel Energy Center. “It’s a neat feeling. (My family) doesn’t get to see me play every day. It’s different obviously on TV than seeing it live, so whenever you get a chance to play in front of family, friends or anybody that you know, it’s always special.
“To do it here in Minnesota is fun as well.”
Porter will take Steve Ott’s place on the Blues’ effective fourth line. Ott sustained a groin injury last night vs. Edmonton and didn’t make the trip.
“Hopefully I can just add to what they’ve done,” Porter said. “They’ve been great over the last three weeks. Obviously it’s tough to see (Ott) go out, but it’s an opportunity for me. I’m just going to try and create some energy and physicality and add to what they’ve done.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock credited Ryan Reaves with the line’s recent success. Hitchcock said Reaves has been forcing a lot of turnovers, including four on one shift Friday vs. Edmonton.
“He’s really brought his game to a new level,” Hitchcock said. “His awareness on the ice, his stick positioning, everything’s caught up. He’s not chasing checks, he’s not chasing the game, he’s really playing well. It’s a good line, and it’s a line that can play effective.”
Said Reaves, “I think we’re running into trouble when we have three guys running around, trying to bang bodies. We’re playing more patient now.”
Barret Jackman blocked a shot last night against Edmonton and left the game briefly. He came back, but eventually left again in the final minutes.
X-rays turned out negative. Jackman will be in the lineup tonight in Minnesota.
“He’s a throwback to the old way you used to play,” Hitchcock said. “Quite frankly, this is the best season he’s had. He’s played with a lot of jump, a lot of physicality, and he’s showing real mobility in small spaces, which has really helped us. He’s one defenseman that can bring an edge to his game.
“At the quarter pole right now, he’s been on of our best defenseman, which is a real good sign for us.”
Both the Blues and Wild are playing the second game of back-to-backs tonight. On Friday, the Blues beat Edmonton 4-3 in a shootout, while Minnesota surrendered three goals in the final four minutes of the second period against Dallas before eventually taking a 5-4 overtime win.
“Both teams played in highly charged emotional games, so who has the energy is going to be important,” Hitchcock said. “The advantage for us is a lot of our energy was expended in the offensive zone, where Minnesota had to defend a real push against Dallas in the third period.
“They’re a lot like us,” Hitchcock said of the Wild. “They play a real honest, hard game. They’ve got a lot of forwards that are willing to go to the net, score a lot of gritty goals. They’re hard to play against, especially in this building… Managing the game properly, keeping the puck in front of us is going to be very important.”
The Blues are 6-3-1 on the road this season and 2-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Jake Allen, who has played three games in three nights in the AHL, will start tonight. It will be the first time he’s played back-to-back games in the NHL. “To me, it’s nothing different. Just another game and a big challenge,” Allen said.
Jaden Schwartz has four goals and four assists in his last seven games against the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues have won nine of their last 10 meetings with the Wild, including four of the last five at Xcel Energy Center.