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Round 1

Blues-Wild series isn't personal, Mike Yeo says

St. Louis coach focused on first-round matchup against former team, not revenge

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- With a little bit of prodding, Mike Yeo admitted that being told he was no longer wanted did hurt.

The coach of the St. Louis Blues said when he was fired as coach of the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 14, 2016, the shock was raw and painful. 

"As a player, as a coach at any level, I'd never been traded and I'd never been fired," Yeo said. "The emotions of what happened at that time, it was gut-wrenching, to be perfectly honest. You have a job where you put your heart and soul, it's not just a job where you show up and punch a ticket and you work hard, you put literally your heart and soul into it and that gets taken away from you. It's a tough thing to deal with and that was my first experience, but I believe that has made me a better coach and looking back at it I'm not disappointed I went through it."

But Yeo wanted to make it clear that, for him, the Blues' Western Conference First Round series against the Wild, which starts with Game 1 on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, FS-N, FS-MW) isn't personal. 

Video: Previewing the Blues-Wild matchup

"Because there's too much at stake and I will not allow it to get personal because my team, they need me to have the right mindset, have the right focus, have the right composure," Yeo said. "For me, this is playoff hockey, for me there's something much more at stake, something that's way bigger in my eyes than a little revenge here.

"It's the pursuit of winning the Stanley Cup, that's our focus and so we have a real tough opponent in our way and we'll be ready for that."

Yeo spent nearly five seasons coaching the Wild. He was 173-132-44 in the regular season and 11-17 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a six-game series win against the Blues in the second round in 2015.

The Blues went 22-8-2 after Feb. 1, when Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach as serving as his associate the first four months of the season

"He has really been a calming presence behind the bench," Blues right wing David Perron said of Yeo. "We know when we make mistakes on the ice, we know we're going to go right back on the ice and we need to make sure that all the details are there and obviously we don't want to keep making the same mistakes."

Like Yeo, the Wild are focusing on the series, not the coaching matchup, said captain Mikko Koivu. 

"We're familiar with each other, so it's not about who's behind the bench and all that," Koivu said. "It's about the team right now, and we've got to make sure that we worry about ourselves going into this series and make sure we're ready to go when the puck drops."

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