BLUES at WILD
TV: CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports 2, FS-MW, FS-N
Best-of-7 series tied 1-1
After wrestling home ice away from the St. Louis Blues, the Minnesota Wild will attempt to utilize the crowd at Xcel Energy Center to their advantage in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series Monday.
To do so, the Wild are going to have to play better on home ice than they did down the stretch of the regular season.
Minnesota's 22 home wins were 19th in the NHL during the regular season. But after winning seven of their first eight to start the season, the Wild went 15-12-6 in the next 33 games at Xcel Energy Center, including 4-5-1 in the last 10 and 0-2-1 in the last three.
"The last month is out the window for me," Wild coach Mike Yeo said Sunday. "For me, this is different. That said, I don't think we're just going to be good here at home. But I'm not nervous about the game tomorrow because of the way we played against Winnipeg in here (in a 2-0 loss in the home finale April 6) either. Let's see how good we are at home. We were a real good playoff team at home last year (5-1). I know our home crowd was a big factor in that."
Minnesota won more games on the road (24) that it did at home this season, when it tied an NHL record with 12 straight road wins before losing the regular-season finale in St. Louis.
Wild left wing Zach Parise said there's nothing to it once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
"I don't think there is anything that I can pinpoint why we were better on the road; I'm not sure," Parise said. "I'm not sure why the year before it was kind of the opposite. Regardless, it's a new season now, and we know there is going to be a lot of energy in here and we've responded well in the past and hopefully we can do that. But nothing is going to be handed to us, it's still going to be a tough game, but we like playing here and hopefully we get a little better luck than we did in the season."
On the flip side, the Blues, who evened the best-of-7 series with a 4-1 victory in Game 2, want to carry over their strong road play from the regular season, when they matched the Wild with 24 road victories.
The Blues split two games against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center in the regular season.
"You've got to feel confident going on the road, especially the way we played this year," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I thought we played some real good hockey down the stretch, especially on the road. We played some smart hockey. We're going to need to continue to do that because that's not an easy rink to go in and play."
The Blues finished their road schedule winning six of nine and earning at least a point in eight of nine (6-1-2). St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock thinks it makes a difference moving forward.
"We've been a good road team," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes, it's because you're a little bit nervous or you don't want to get beat, and so you have a real edge to your game and your focus. And I think we've played good on the road because our focus has been narrow and simple, and when we play a simple game, it's effective.
"We've got to go there and play really well. We've got to play within our structure, because we're going to have to win a game to take it back to get home ice back again, and so I think when we keep our focus narrow, we're very, very good."