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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Wild hosts Blues in final home contest before five-game trip

by Devin Lowe and Dan Myers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: St. Louis Blues (32-27-5, 69 points, fourth place, Central Division) at Minnesota Wild (42-15-6, 90 points, first place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports Go; Wild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Part of an improved defensive focus for the Minnesota Wild over the last two games has been a commitment to staying good on the penalty kill.

While the Wild's PK has been among the better ones in the NHL over the course of the season, its kill has been especially good over the past 10 games.

Since allowing a power-play goal in overtime of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 8, the Wild has surrendered zero power-play goals over the past 10 games, killing 21 of 21 tries during that span.

"We're just trying to pressure as much as we can," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. "If you don't let them get a clean entry, I think it's a bit easier and with the scouting [assistant coach] Scott [Stevens] has been doing, the video we've been watching, it's been helping us out a lot with trigger points and just the will to block shots when we have to."

Video: Wild pregame vs St. Louis

Stevens, who has been at the helm of the penalty kill all season, has the Wild ranked seventh in the NHL in penalty killing, one spot ahead of Tuesday's opponent, the St. Louis Blues. 

Its success on the penalty kill this season has been one of the factors behind the Wild's success in the win-loss column. Last year, Minnesota finished the regular season ranked 27th in the NHL in the same category.

It will get tested against the Blues, who, in addition to a good kill, also have the NHL's fourth-best power play. Vladimir Tarasenko leads St. Louis with seven power-play goals this season.

Of course, staying out of the penalty box can also help limit an opponent's power play. The Wild is spending just over four minutes per game in the penalty box this season, or an average of about two penalties per outing, good for third-best in the NHL.

"We think it's really big [to kill off an important power play]," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We think it's a big motivational jump when you kill a penalty. When you don't score on a power play, sometimes it's a little demoralizing. 

"When you have a good penalty kill, it really lifts the bench up."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD 

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Chris Stewart - Eric Staal - Zach Parise

Nino Niederreiter - Martin Hanzal - Charlie Coyle

Ryan White - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - David Perron

Dmitrij Jaskin - Jori Lehtera - Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson - Jordan Schmaltz

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Video: Bruce Boudreau pregame vs St. Louis
 

The opponent

The Blues snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday night against last-place Colorado in Denver, shutting out the Avs by a score of 3-0. Before that, St. Louis dropped games to Buffalo and Florida before falling in divisional matchups against Chicago and Winnipeg, losses sandwiched around a home defeat against Edmonton. The Blues are 8-6-0 in 14 games under former Wild coach Mike Yeo. Vladimir Tarasenko's 56 points in 64 games are the most on St. Louis' roster, and forward Jaden Schwartz has 39 points in 60 games for second place in scoring. Goaltender Jake Allen has earned 23 victories in 47 outings and accumulated a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against average of 2.60.


Connections

• Wild forward Chris Stewart scored 63 goals and 115 points in 211 games over four seasons with the Blues from 2011-2014.

• Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens skated one season for the Blues, scoring five goals and 49 points in 1990-91. 

• Blues head coach coach Mike Yeo compiled a 173-132-44 record as the Wild's head coach from 2011 until last February.

• St. Louis assistant coach Rick Wilson served in the same role with Minnesota from 2010 through the end of last season.

• Blues forward Kyle Brodziak spent six seasons in a Wild sweater (2009-15), scoring 169 points, including 72 goals in 446 games.


Let's goal crazy

Minnesota's plus-63 goal differential ranks first in the Western Conference and second in the League behind Washington (plus-75). The Wild has scored more goals than any team in the West (212), and it is the only team in the West with a goals-per-game average above 3.00 (3.32). Minnesota has scored four or more goals in 27 games this season, which amounts to nearly 43 percent of its contests.

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