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Wild aim to stop skid against Blues

by Mike Battaglino

WILD (2-2-0) at BLUES (4-1-0)


Season series: This is the first of three meetings. Minnesota won two last season before losing the third in a shootout; those games ended regulation 2-1, 2-2 and 2-2. St. Louis won the final matchup, 4-0.

Big story: The Blues are off to a 4-1-0 start thanks to two come-from-behind wins, the latest Friday night over the Dallas Stars, 4-3. They have been helped early in this short season by having an almost identical roster to last season's 109-point club.

"I think we've done a good job coming back and feeling right at home again," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told FOX Sports Midwest on Saturday. "It's nice come to back to a locker room that's pretty much the same for the most part."

However, St. Louis sits in second place in the Central Division, behind the 5-0-0 Chicago Blackhawks, and is tied with the 4-0-0 San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference.

Minnesota has lost two in a row after winning its first two. The Wild started last season 3-3-3 before winning 17 of their next 21 games.

"It's way too early to start panicking," Wild coach Mike Yeo said Saturday. "I mean we're 2-2 and things could be very different, but at the same time we shouldn't accept the fact that we've lost two in a row here. So everybody's got to kind of demand a little bit more."

Team scope:

Wild: Zach Parise was signed as a free agent to improve the Wild offense, and he has. Playing on a line with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, the trio has six of the team's nine goals, and has taken 51 of its 123 shots.

But three of those six goals have come on the power play, leaving Yeo looking for more even-strength success from the entire team.

"Five-on-five we have to get some dirtier goals," Yeo said. "We're looking to make a lot of plays, a lot of nice plays to the middle of the ice, and a lot of times they're not there. So we have to find a way to generate more pucks to the net, with bodies around the net, whether it's coming from the blue line, or whether it's coming off the rush."

Ryan Suter was signed to improve the defense, but he has been on ice for eight of the Wild's 10 goals allowed, according to the Star Tribune. Yeo said failure on offense has been leading to defensive breakdowns.

"We're not losing just because we're not scoring at those key moments," Yeo said. "We're losing the last couple games because we're not scoring at the key moments and then we're making a big mistake."

Goalie Josh Harding started all four games against the Blues last season and was excellent, stopping 132 of 141 shots (.936). But Niklas Backstrom likely will start Sunday. This season, Backstrom is 1-1-0 with 48 saves, a 2.52 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. Harding's numbers are 1-1-0, 46 saves, 2.56 GAA, .902.

Blues: David Perron scored his first two goals of the season Saturday, and newcomer Wade Redden had his first in the NHL since March 18, 2010. Perron also was one of six players to have an assist.

After trailing 2-1, St. Louis led 4-2 before Dallas rallied to almost tie.

"Well, I think we had them buried and we let them up off the mat," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Saturday. "Then they came after us in the third period at the end there. Those are lessons learned to get ready for next game. If we play like this tomorrow night in the third period, we're going to lose by about six."

Jaroslav Halak (3-0-0) got his first win that wasn't a shutout, but Brian Elliot likely will get his second start Sunday when the Blues play for the sixth time in nine days. After this, they'll have three days off.

"This is probably the toughest (part of our) schedule," general manager Doug Armstrong told FS-MW. "We've got the find a way get points out of tomorrow's game before it gets into a smoother rhythm."

Blues players will wear "No. 6 Musial" jerseys in warm-ups to honor St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial, who passed away last Saturday. The jerseys will be auctioned for charity.

Who's hot: Parise had three goals and three assists; Heatley has three goals. … Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck has 17 hits. … Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk and rookie forward Vladimir Tarasenko have at least a point in four of five games. … Forward Chris Stewart has three goals in five games; it took him 14 games to get to three last season, 23 to get to four.

Injury report: Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) likely will not play. … The Blues have no injuries.

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