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Wild look to maintain edge, take 3-1 lead on Blues

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have been at their best this season when their backs have been against the wall.

When the Wild were under .500 in January they made a trade for goaltender Devan Dubnyk and had the best record in the NHL the rest of the season.

When faced with one of the toughest schedules in the League during the final few weeks Minnesota won crucial games against other Western Conference contenders for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now with a 2-1 lead in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild hope to avoid losing their edge, and home-ice advantage, in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-MW, FS-N).

"We don't go into the game saying, 'Oh, it's nice we got a 2-1 lead.' And we didn't go in last game saying, 'Oh no, we lost the last game.' It's just about the next one," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We come in with no kind of assumptions of how the game's going to play out, no kind of thoughts in terms of, 'Oh, if we win this is what it means. If we lose, that's what it means.' We put all of our thoughts and focus into the idea that we have to play the game a certain way. We have to bring certain things into the game tonight. If you do that you give yourself a better chance."

Almost any time the Wild have had a semblance of comfort down the stretch they've responded by playing less than stellar hockey. After back-to-back wins against the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings on March 27-28 basically made the Wild a win-and-in playoff team, Minnesota responded by losing its next three games, all at home.

Facing the same circumstances with three games remaining, all on the road against the top three teams in the Central Division, the Wild won their next two to secure the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the West.

It's that kind of urgency the Wild hope to have against the Blues on Wednesday.

"I don't think there is any breathing room," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "It's another game at home. We want to keep winning at home and keep playing good. That's the mentality we have. And if you're thinking otherwise it's not going to end up good. We know that."

Wild forward Charlie Coyle said his team is approaching Game 4 like it's a must-win game.

"Every game is important in the playoffs," Coyle said. "We don't want to let them back in this series. This is a huge game; if they win they're back in it. But we're not focused on anything after this; just focused on this game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin - Paul Stastny - Patrik Berglund

Chris Porter - Steve Ott - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Zbynek Michalek

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Olli Jokinen, Marcel Goc, Chris Butler, Robert Bortuzzo, Ty Rattie, Niklas Lundstrom

Injured: None


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Sean Bergenheim - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Jordan Leopold - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Matt Cooke, Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Keith Ballard (concussion)

Status report: No changes are expected to Minnesota's lineup from Game 3.

Who's hot: Pominville had a goal and an assist in Game 3 and leads the Wild with two goals and four points in the series.

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