The St. Louis Blues wrap up its third of three consecutive road games at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The first two games, both wins for the Blues, were absolute thrillers with comebacks and scoring galore. With St. Louis riding a four-game win streak, they’ll look to finish their three-game stint in Minnesota undefeated and extend their streak to five games.
The Blues took down the Wild last Wednesday and Thursday by scores of 4-3 and 5-4 (OT), respectively. In the first matchup, St. Louis managed to pot three goals in the third period, including a Robert Thomas game-winner with just 23 seconds remaining, to steal the game in regulation. The next night, it was Minnesota’s turn for a late-game comeback, tying it up at 4-4 in the final minute of the third period, before having their party spoiled by Ryan O’Rielly’s breakaway backhand snipe in overtime. It’s been a fun road trip to watch for Blues fans, and hopefully Saturday’s game will match the excitement of past two.
The Blues currently sit in the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division with a three-point lead and three games in hand over the Arizona Coyotes. The Wild, on the other hand, are third in the West and hope to catch up and pass the Vegas Golden Knights and/or Colorado Avalanche for a better playoff seed. Saturday’s game is crucial for both sides as it has major implications on each team’s postseason scenarios.
Expected to start in net are Jordan Binnington for St. Louis and Kaapo Kahkonen for Minnesota. Binnington last played in Wednesday’s come-from-behind Blues victory, posting an unimpressive .897 save percentage (SV%). He can’t expect his teammates to bail him out again, so he will need to step up his game and prove he is capable of carrying his team to the postseason against a skilled Wild team. His .969 SV% performance in a 4-1 win over the Avalanche last Monday gave a glimpse of the Binnington that Blues fans know and love. We’ll see if he can return to form on Saturday.
In the opposing crease, Wild rookie Kahkonen is making his 21st start of the season. He currently ranks third among rookie netminders with at least 20 starts, posting a .910 SV% through 21 games played. On April 9, his last start against the Blues, he posted an abysmal .763 SV% and allowed nine goals against. St. Louis can’t expect the same on Saturday, so getting pucks past him early and maintaining pressure in the Wild zone will be key to beating the young netminder.
The puck drops at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday at 7:00 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 – Sammy Blais
Mike Hoffman – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou
Kyle Clifford – Ivan Barbashev – Zach Sanford
Marco Scandella – Justin Faulk
Jake Walman – Colton Parayko
Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Mackenzie MacEachern, Steven Santini
Injured: Vince Dunn (upper body), Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Torey Krug (upper body)