The St. Louis Blues begin a three-game road trip at the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Entering the matchup after back-to-back wins over the Colorado Avalanche, the Blues face a tough task against a red hot Wild team riding a seven-game win streak. The upcoming series is crucial for both sides as St. Louis hopes to secure a playoff spot and Minnesota looks to keep up with the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche at the top of the West Division.
The Wild’s most recent losses came against the Blues, who took down Minnesota by scores of 9-1 and 3-2 (OT) on April 9 and 10, respectively. Since then, the Wild have played against the Arizona Coyotes (x3), San Jose Sharks (x3) and Los Angeles Kings (x1). St. Louis is likely to be a tougher opponent for Minnesota, but the Wild will not be a pushover by any means and could very well put a dent in the Blues’ playoff hopes if their momentum continues.
The main key for St. Louis heading into this three-game stint is to find ways to beat Minnesota’s goaltenders. Cam Talbot, whose .926 save percentage (SV%) ranks him second in the NHL among goalies with at least 25 starts, is expected to start on Wednesday. Backing him up is Kaapo Kahkonen (.910 SV%), who ranks third among rookie netminders with at least 20 starts. With the Blues’ offense seeming to come back from the dead against Colorado, the team will need as much firepower as possible to get the puck to the back of the net early and often.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, David Perron and Robert Thomas were the goal-scorers for St. Louis in Monday’s 4-1 win over the Avalanche, ending goalless droughts of at least 10 games for all four players. Last Saturday’s 5-3 win against Colorado saw a Ryan O’Reilly hat trick and Mike Hoffman game-winning goal. The game before that, a 4-2 loss to the Avalanche, Jaden Schwartz potted himself a pair of goals. If the Blues want to shut down the streaking Wild, they will need to keep this steady production from their top forwards going.
Jordan Binnington will start in net for St. Louis on Wednesday after posting a .969 SV% against Colorado on Monday. His most recent game against Minnesota was April 9, where he posted a .960 SV% in the Blues’ 9-1 win. The Wild offer him another chance to establish himself against a strong opponent as the Blues continue their race for the final playoff spot in the West.
The puck drops at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. CT.
As per NHL.com, the Blues’ projected lineup against the Wild is as follows:
Brayden Schenn – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron
Jaden Schwartz – Tyler Bozak – Vladimir Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou
Sammy Blais – Mike Hoffman
Marco Scandella – Justin Faulk
Torey Krug – Jake Walman
Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Zach Sanford, Kyle Clifford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Steven Santini
Injured: Vince Dunn (upper body)