Closing in on playoffs, Blues face Wild again

NHL Hockey

The St. Louis Blues will continue their push for the final West Division playoff spot Saturday when they again visit the Minnesota Wild.

The fourth-place Blues (23-19-6, 52 points) have won four consecutive games to move three points ahead of the fifth-place Coyotes. The Blues also have three games in hand on Arizona.

The third-place Wild (31-14-4, 66 points) have clinched a playoff spot and are battling the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the division. Colorado holds a two-point lead and has a game in hand.

The Blues defeated the Wild 4-3 on Wednesday and 5-4 in overtime Thursday in the first two games in this three-game set at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“Right now, definitely guys are feeling good,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “A pretty confident team. The guys are really playing together as a team out there. Guys are really backing each other up and cheering each other on. We got real good team spirit right now.”

The Blues’ four-game winning streak matches their season high. They have scored four or more goals in each game, with production coming from up and down the lineup.

“Guys are playing to their roles and accepting their roles,” defenseman Torey Krug said. “Once guys accept where they are in the lineup and what their job (is), and what they’re asked to do, and they show up and do it every single night, it allows everyone to reach their potential as a group.”

The Blues have finally gained some traction despite featuring a lineup in constant flux. In the latest development, defenseman Colton Parayko (upper-body injury) returned to action after missing two more games and winger Vladimir Tarasenko (lower-body injury) was a late scratch from Thursday’s game.

“It’s day-to-day,” Berube said. “It’s nothing worse than that.”

The Wild will be looking to get back on track after delivering uneven performances during the two losses to the Blues. Minnesota will be trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.

“What we saw (Wednesday) night was great two periods and not a great third. (Thursday) we saw two terrible periods and a great third,” Wild coach Dean Evason said after the overtime loss. “It’s encouraging that we know it’s there.

“It was almost like it was the same game just reversed and clearly we didn’t get the result.”

Evason shuffled his lines in the third period, moving Victor Rask onto a line with Kevin Fiala and Marcus Johansson. Rask responded with his first goal since March 18 and his second and third even-strength points since March 14.

Minnesota is 0-2-2 in its past four games against the Blues.

“They’re a team that works hard,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. “They’ve got great sticks. They get in a lot of passing lanes and make it difficult on you from that aspect. They do a lot of similar things that we do to teams.”

Dumba noted the playoff vibe in those games, which should help his team prepare for postseason play.

“They’re a very desperate hockey club right now with the situation that they’re in,” Dumba said. “I think we’re right where we need to be. Clinched a playoff spot, and just working the kinks out of our game so we’re ready come playoffs. It’s all preparation for that now.”

–Field Level Media

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